Mr President, Ministers, Ambassadors, Honorary President, members of Canning House, distinguished guests, Lords, ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to thank the President for his inspiring words.
It was wonderful to listen to him speak about a country with which I feel a close affinity. And about a region which is integral to the future success of the United Kingdom.
It is testimony to the Canning Agenda, launched over four years ago by William Hague, that in such a short time the UK and Latin America have achieved so much together.
Our links with Latin America have never been in better shape, with a 36% rise in trade and investment, increased UK representation in 4 countries and over 80 royal or ministerial visits since 2010 – including two I have made to Mexico myself.
My most recent visit was in November, when I had the great honour of accompanying Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. One of the many highlights of that trip were the exceptional Cornish pasties in Real del Monte, a legacy of the miners who came over from the UK from Falmouth in 1825, and a reminder of our strong historic links.
And for me personally, of course, I remember vividly getting my hair cut with Foreign Minister Meade - and so extending those bilateral links into the vitally important coiffure industry.
On both of my visits, I was hugely impressed – not only by the energy and dynamism that are fuelling Mexico’s steady growth; but by the changes which have done so much to build Mexico’s optimism.
In less than two years, President Peña Nieto has driven through important reforms to build a modern Mexico. A Mexico able to carry weight internationally. And a Mexico that supports its most valuable asset - its young and vibrant population.
For me the greatest opportunity in our bilateral partnership is The Dual Year of the UK and Mexico – which will take our already strong relationship to a new level - creating new connections between our people: our academics; our artists; and our businesses. Harnessing the combined strengths of the modern, dynamic countries that we have both become.
The UK-Mexico Dual Year exemplifies the spirit of the Canning Agenda, which will continue to flourish right across the Latin American region in 2015.
And it is clearly in our national interest to ensure that it does so.
So I can think of no more fitting sign of the importance and strength of our partnership with Mexico – and indeed Latin America - than having the privilege to welcome the President and his delegation on the occasion of their State Visit to the UK.
This marks not just the beginning of an exciting Dual Year between our two countries – but a further sign of the growing and deepening partnership between the UK and Latin America.