Hugo Swire on Chile Day 2014

Latin America Minister Hugo Swire gives Mansion House speech in celebration of Chile Day

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP

Speaking today, Mr Swire said:

Minister Arenas, Minister Céspedes, Central Bank President Vergara, Senators, My Deputy Lord Mayor, other distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. A warm welcome to you all here on this typical London morning.

I’m very grateful to the Lord Mayor of London and her team for hosting us here today at the Mansion House.

I have fond memories of opening Chile Day in 2012 – one of my first official engagements as Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. So, I am delighted to be attending for the third time in as many years.

But this is in fact the fourth time that Chile Day has returned to London – something, I believe, which is not only a testament to this city, as:

  • one of the world’s top financial centres;
  • home to the world’s principle metal exchange; and
  • a popular gateway to Europe;

but to the excellent relationship that the entire United Kingdom and Chile enjoy today.

Chile Day is an occasion to celebrate the importance of continued close relations – whether culturally, in diplomacy, or business. So, to that end, this morning I would like to:

  • set out the strength of the UK’s relations with Chile; and
  • highlight how we can grow these links.

Now, Chile and the United Kingdom have enjoyed a long friendship, which can be traced back to Lord Cochrane’s involvement in Chilean independence two centuries ago.

And I’m proud to see that friendship grow stronger today.

For the fourth year in a row, the UK remains the top destination for Chilean Government-funded post-graduate scholars. Next year, we will more than treble the number of Chevening scholarships available to Chilean students.

And the attraction is mutual. Approximately 80,000 British tourists visit Chile each year.

I, myself, have had the great pleasure of visiting Chile on two occasions. Most recently, in March, I had the privilege of attending President Bachelet’s inauguration.

And His Royal Highness Prince Harry enjoyed a rapturous reception in June, doing much, I hope, to raise awareness of the UK in Chile, and vice versa.

But crucially, our friendship extends to tangible success in other areas, like trade and investment. Last year was a record year in the commercial relationship between our two countries. Bilateral trade in goods reached an unprecedented £1.7 billion - double what it was five years ago. Along with other UK exports, Chilean consumers are now enjoying many high quality British products like Famous Grouse whisky, Jaguar cars and Waitrose food.

British companies continue their strong presence in the important mining sector in Chile. And over the last year, our firms have also developed links in renewable energy and healthcare. Here in the UK, we continue to enjoy Chilean produce like fruit, salmon – and, of course, vino. The Chilean wine company Concha y Toro sponsors Manchester United Football Club. Chilean mining, shipping, and pharmaceutical companies also do well here.

And I believe these commercial relationships have been helped by our renewed focus on Latin America as a whole. Four years ago next month, William Hague, the former Foreign Secretary, set out our Canning Agenda, saying that “the days of Britain’s retreat from Latin America are over”. Since then, we have opened new Embassies in Asuncion, San Salvador and Port Au Prince, and a new Consulate-General in Recife. It was a great honour to open these new Embassies myself.

In Chile, we have forged stronger links between our Embassy and the British Chamber of Commerce, with a new regional inward investment team, located in Santiago.

Believe me when I tell you that we have dramatically increased the number of ministerial visits across the region. And we now have more than 40 staff in Latin America working specifically on boosting trade and investment - including five based in Santiago.

Last December, I spoke at the London Summit of the Pacific Alliance, to highlight how the British Government was pleased to have been awarded observer status. We see real potential in the Alliance. Chile is a fundamental part of the reason for our optimism and we want to work with you to make it an even greater success.

So, yes, our engagement with you on Chile Day - and through other initiatives - demonstrates our commitment to Latin America. But it also shows the importance we place on Chile in particular, as a key partner in the region.   While there is much to celebrate in our work together, we are not here today just to rest on our laurels. Rather, I hope we each leave here energised with new ideas, new opportunities and new partnerships that will build on our success to date.

With Chile’s open and stable economy, rising middle class and wealth of natural resources, it is a shining beacon of progress and opportunity in the region.

And the UK has precisely the right expertise to partner with Chile. Our financial sector can provide access to project finance and expert management of Chilean assets. In mining, British companies can provide support across the supply chain. And in infrastructure, the UK can provide expert consultancy and engineering.

And I look forward to hearing from Minister Arenas later on, about the scope there is for Chilean companies to set up here in the UK as we continue to implement our long term economic plan. We have the fastest growing economy in Western Europe or the G7. Our highly skilled workers, competitive tax regime, great business environment and support for innovation make the UK an ideal location for any business looking to expand into Europe.

I would point anyone here today looking to do so, towards UK Trade & Investment, who would be delighted to support you in expanding your links with the UK. They will be hosting a seminar tomorrow at Lancaster House to tell you more about that.

So let me stress again the value we place on the special bond between the United Kingdom and Chile.

It is a bond that we have shared for a very long time. And we are proud of our excellent trading and business links. But I am determined that we make them stronger.

Both of our countries have great stories to tell. We have unique strengths. And I see real opportunities in our working even more closely together.

Chile Day in London - for the fourth time in as many years - is an exciting part of that. So let all of us seize the unique opportunity – and make it the most successful Chile Day yet.

Published 13 October 2014