Hugo Swire speech on Chile Day

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

Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire gave a speech about the UK and Chile's strong friendship and shared trade and business interests.

Lord Mayor, Minister Larrain, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here at Mansion House this morning. Indeed, I recall being here a year ago for the successful 2012 Chile Day – as my first official event as a Foreign Office Minister, I remember it doubly well. So I was thrilled to hear that Chile Day was returning to London. A warm welcome to you all.

May I begin by saying that the fact Chile Day is again in London is testament to the strength of the UK’s relationship with Chile. Close relations, whether in business, trade or diplomacy, matter to us all. It is how we can grow as countries, how we can succeed globally, and how we can all work together for a more prosperous world.

Chile remains a close friend to Britain, a friendship dating back centuries. Since my debut at Chile Day last year, I have been fortunate enough to visit Chile itself – a dynamic and beautiful country with an impressive growth rate and huge potential in business and trade. I very much hope to visit again in the near future.

Trade between the UK and Chile is thriving, with new data pointing to an increase in UK exports to Chile of 130 percent in the first five months of this year compared to the same period in 2012. Food from Waitrose is now available in Chile, alongside many other brands – from Jaguar cars to Laura Ashley homeware, Oasis clothing and Loake shoes.

Here in the UK, we are also grateful for Chilean exports. Internationally, Chile is famous for copper. But in terms of imports into the UK, personally, wine is my favourite, and I am pleased to note that we Brits remain the number one consumers per capita of Chilean wine anywhere in the world, and I like to think that I personally contribute to that; of course in a restrained and responsible way – which probably speaks both to the inherent quality of your product and our British drinking habits!

But the key to a healthy commercial relationship is to look forward as well as back.

And it is clear being here today that this is exactly what Chile is doing – reaching out to European and international markets, building contacts away from the usual trading partners and striving ahead with Chile’s goal to be the first fully-developed Latin American country. From where I stand it looks well on course – as a country with more free trade agreements than anywhere else, and now the region’s highest GDP per capita, with combined economic growth in the four years of President Pinera’s government of over 20 percent.

In short, Chile is a shining success story.

So why choose to come back to London? Why choose London at all for Chile Day?

I think we can all agree on the answer. As Minister Larrain said at an event in March announcing Chile Day 2013, London is “the top financial centre in Europe, the doorway to Asia, and it is also home to the world’s principal metal exchanges, where Chilean copper is traded.” I would add to this the vital importance of the London Stock Exchange, which has over 600 international listings, and the fact that the UK’s private equity and venture capital sector manages assets of some £140 billion. Britain also remains among the world’s easiest places to do business.

With all of that in mind, it’s encouraging to see Chile Day again being held in London. And I am grateful to Minister Larrain for having ignored the siren voices of others who sought to move Chile Day away from the UK. Establishing a base in Europe – the world’s largest single market of more than half a billion consumers – is a natural step for many globally-minded companies. And no other European country can offer the advantages that the UK does.

Our business friendly environment, highly skilled workers, competitive tax regime, global links, excellent ICT infrastructure and support for innovation combine to make the UK the ideal location for a launching pad into Europe. My colleagues from the British Embassy in Santiago and UK Trade and Investment in London are ready to support any of you considering this step.

Of course, you will know that in Britain we are holding a democratic debate on our country’s role in the European Union. But let me be clear, as my colleagues have been, that Britain remains in Europe, plans to be at the heart of Europe and wants a strong and successful Europe – but a Europe fit for the 21st century and beyond. Being in Europe is good for business – not just for the UK, but for others outside the EU.

And just as we look to a successful Europe in the years to come, we also look forward to a strong and prosperous future for Latin America.

In the United Kingdom, Latin America has a committed partner and friend. The Canning Agenda, announced in 2010 by our Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is now in its third year, and progress is impressive. I have had the pleasure to open new diplomatic missions, we have added more staff to our diplomatic posts in the region, including in Santiago, and there is a renewed energy and enthusiasm for our partnership with this diverse and striking continent.

We will see this again later this year when the UK plays host to a launch of the Pacific Alliance here in London. That Alliance demonstrates again a free-thinking and like minded trading block for which Chile is at the heart. We look forward to engaging with the Alliance in the coming months as this organisation strives towards further success.

And so to conclude: I say to our Chilean friends; -

We are as countries a long distance apart – but share equal values and aspirations.

We have a long history – but can look ahead to a promising future.

We have excellent trading and business links – but they can be even better.

Chile Day has been to London before, and as a clear sign of success has now returned. Long may the prosperity and the close bonds between our countries flourish.

Further information

Visit the Chile Day website

Visit the UK and Chile website pages

Follow Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire on twitter @HugoSwire

Follow the Foreign Office on twitter @foreignoffice

Follow the Foreign Office on facebook and Google+

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