Argentina Asks Companies to Cut U.K. Imports Over Falklands

Argentine officials told executives from about 20 companies to cut their imports of goods made in the U.K. as a protest over control of the Falkland Islands, said an official who declined to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak publicly.

Companies including the local unit of Ford Motor Co. were told to find substitutes for imports from the U.K., the official said yesterday. The move came one day after President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government blocked two Carnival Corp. cruise ships that had stopped for a port call in the Falklands from docking in Argentina.

Fernandez is stepping up pressure on the U.K. to discuss the sovereignty of the islands, over which the two nations fought a war in 1982. The 59-year-old leader said Feb. 27 that the U.K.’s control of the archipelago represented a vestige of “colonialism,” the same description U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron gave to Argentina’s claim over the islands this month.

Trade between the two countries totaled about $1.5 billion last year, with Argentina having a surplus of $137 million, according to the country’s national statistics institute.

“It’s clearly very sad that Argentina continues with their policy of confrontation instead of cooperation,” Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman, Steve Field, told reporters in London today. “We think that’s counterproductive and also completely misreading Britain’s resolve on this issue. The U.K. is a major investor in Argentina. We import goods from Argentina. It’s not in Argentina’s interests to put up trade barriers.”

Executives from Ford, pharmaceutical company Roemmers SAICF and the local unit of Maintal, Germany-based Syngenta Agro GmBH were among those told to cut their reliance on imports from the U.K., the Argentine official said.

Central Bank Reserves

The decision is part of a broader effort to defend Argentina’s narrowing trade surplus, the official said. Blocked from international credit markets since its 2001 default on $95 billion of bonds, Argentina depends on its trade surplus to help build the central bank reserves it uses to pay debt and control the peso.

Argentina’s charge d’affaires in London was summoned to provide an explanation of his government’s measures, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in an e-mail statement.

Argentina traces its ties to the Falklands to 1820 when Colonel David Jewett claimed possession of the islands in the name of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata. Britain assumed military control of the archipelago in 1833, evicting Argentine authorities the following year.

Argentine military dictator Leopoldo Galtieri ordered the invasion of the Malvinas, as the Falklands are known in Argentina, on April 2, 1982. Argentine troops were defeated by British forces on June 14 that year.

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