Buenos Aires Times

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British PM May eyes trade deal with Argentina, Mercosur after Brexit

'I look forward to developing our trade relationship with Argentina once we've left the European Union,' declares Theresa May at press conference.

Saturday 1 December, 2018
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a press conference Saturday at the G20 Leader's Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a press conference Saturday at the G20 Leader's Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Foto:Gustavo Garello/AP

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Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that her government will seek new trade deals with Argentina and the Mercosur bloc after the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

Speaking at a press conference at Costa Salguero, after the close of the two-day G20 Leaders Summit in Buenos Aires, the PM praised President Mauricio Macri’s hosting of the event and said she expected Britain’s relationship with Argentina to deepen with time.

“I look forward to developing our trade relationship with Argentina once we’ve left the European Union and I think this is a developing relationship and it will continue to grow,” she declared.

Responding to a question about her desire for an accord with the South American trade bloc, May said that her government had “been encouraging the EU to finalise its arrangements” with the Mercosur, adding pointedly that talks “have been under discussion for some time.”

The press conference marked the end of a busy few days for the Conservative party leader, who became the first sitting prime minister to visit Buenos Aires, some 36 years after Argentina went to war over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands.

During the first-day of the summit she held a bilateral meeting with President Macri and May was eager to acknowledge "the warm welcome" she had received.

“I was very pleased to be able to have a discussion with President Macri yesterday on the future relationship between Argentina and the UK,” she told reporters.

“That relationship is developing and [it] is growing,” she reiterated.

Bilateral relations have improved dramatically since President Macri took power in December 2015 and both Buenos Aires and London have indicated this week that a bright future lies ahead – should the Cambiemos (Let’s Change) leader win re-election next year and the British PM remain in power, with discontent rife among her own party backbenchers over the deal her government has sealed with EU negotiators over their departure.

Much of her press conference was dedicated to Brexit, with UK reporters quizzing May on the stability of her own position and even her legacy.

Earlier in the day, the Conservative leader saw another government official – Universities and Science Minister Sam Gyimah – quit her government over the terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union. He said the deal was “not in the British national interest.”

The PM said that the agreement she had secured with EU negotiators was “a good deal for the UK,” adding that failure to back her deal “would only lead to uncertainty.” 

May said she had discussed potential trade deals with a number of G20 ministers at the summit, including Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

She also paid tribute to her Argentine counterpart as the summit closed.

"I would like to congratulate President Macri for Argentina's presidency and the hosting of this summit," she added.

The Conservative leader had began the press conference by paying tribute to the late George H. W. Bush, the former US president, who died this morning aged 94.

"Today we remember a great statesman and a true friend of Britain. We send our deepest condolences to the American people and to his family," she said.

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