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EU ready to take 'appropriate' steps in Falklands row

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(BRUSSELS) - The European Union will take "appropriate" steps to settle a trade row over the Falklands involving Britain, an EU spokesman said Wednesday.

"The EU will be taking appropriate diplomatic steps to clarify these legitimate trade concerns," said EU trade spokesman John Clancy after Britain urged its partners for support in what it said was Argentina's attempt to erect trade barriers amid tensions over the Falkland Islands.

He offered no further immediate details.

Britain called for EU support after London summoned Argentina's charge d'affaires to the Foreign Office over the country's threat to boycott British products.

On Monday, Argentinian authorities refused permission for two British cruise ships to dock at Ushuaia on the southern tip of Argentina after they had visited the Falklands.

The charge d'affaires, Osvaldo Narciso Marsico, was told "that such actions against legitimate commercial activity were a matter of concern, not just for the UK, but for the EU as a whole", a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

"We expect the EU to lodge similar concerns with Argentine authorities," she added.

Earlier, the Foreign Office described Britain's trading relationship with Argentina as "important" and said any attempt to damage it was "deeply disappointing".

"The economic relationship between the UK and Argentina is an important one, which contributes to prosperity and growth for both our citizens," a spokesman said.

"So it is firmly not in Argentina's economic interest to put up these barriers to trade."

Argentina's Industry Minister Debora Giorgi was reported on Tuesday to have telephoned senior officials of Argentinian and multinational importing companies to urge them to find alternatives to British products.

Last year, Argentina exported goods worth $779 million (583 million euros) to Britain, including soybeans, soy oil, corn and peanuts, and imported goods worth $664 million including chemicals, pharmaceuticals and cars.

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