Liam Fox's speech celebrating 100 years of the British Chamber in Brazil

Speech delivered by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox at the World Trade Centre in Sao Paulo, Brazil on 8 December.

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Thank you Jorge (Carneiro, President of Britcham) for your kind introduction.

Ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to be here at the World Trade Centre in Sao Paulo to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Britcham in Brazil.

The World Trade Centre, this physical embodiment of the principles of free trade and enterprise, is a particularly appropriate venue.

The values it represents are the values of Britain, and of our partner and friend in trade, Brazil.

I would like to take this opportunity to send my condolences to the people of Brazil and in particular the friends and relatives of those killed in the plane crash in Colombia and those associated with the Chapecoense football team.

It truly is a terrible loss and our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Yesterday, I attended a trade and investment dialogue with my counterpart, Trade Minister Pereira, and there was much to discuss; since the last Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) in London, there has been a great deal of change in both Britain and Brazil.

On the 23rd of June, - in one of the biggest democratic exercises in our nation’s history - the British people chose to leave the European Union.

Some have suggested this was a symptom of insularity; that the United Kingdom would be pulling up the drawbridge and turning inward, withdrawing from the world.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Leaving the EU now offers us an opportunity to forge a new role for ourselves in the world: to negotiate our own trade agreements and to be a positive and powerful force for free trade

But in doing so we will, of course, remain close allies with our partners in the EU.

My Department for International Trade was founded to pull out all the stops in boosting our trade; promoting the UK as a place to do trade with and do business.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, and I share a vision for our country; that the UK will be the beating heart of global commerce, and a champion of free trade.

Yet we cannot achieve this ambition without the support and friendship of our overseas partners.

Foreign Minister Serra was among the first to call for close cooperation on trade following the referendum, and we in the UK have welcomed his support.

Britain will look to the future, as we build closer bonds with countries, like Brazil, who will help shape the 21st century built on the principles of free and open trade.

The United Kingdom and Brazil have enjoyed historically close ties that have been founded on trade and commerce.

In fact, as I’m sure many of you are aware, when the British Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Brazil began a century ago, the UK was Brazil’s largest trading partner.

When these links were threatened by the Great War, Britcham worked to keep them alive.

One hundred years on, I am proud to say that this relationship is flourishing.

Britain may no longer, for the moment, be among Brazil’s largest trading partners, but commerce between our countries is thriving.

In just three years from 2009, the value of British exports to Brazil grew by an astonishing 71%.

These links have also proved remarkably resilient. Since 2014 Brazil has faced a number of economic challenges, yet total imports from Britain fell by a mere 5%, compared to a 25% fall in imports for the economy overall.

This is clearly a relationship we should be proud of.

Britain’s largest companies have been quick to recognise the strength of our trading connections, and have moved to capitalise on the many opportunities that Brazil offers.

Car company Jaguar Land Rover and plant manufacturer JCB, 2 of Britain’s most iconic brands, have invested here.

Just 2 hours from here, Oxitec have opened the largest transgenic mosquito factory in the world, deploying scientific expertise from one of the world’s finest universities in the fight against Zika and Yellow Fever.

And we have also recently welcomed the news that GymPass has become the 100th Brazilian company to commence operations in the UK.

Yet there is more to do.

Currently, although the UK is only the forth largest foreign direct investor here, the UK is not one of Brazil’s top ten trading partners.

With all that Brazil has to offer, British companies have huge opportunities yet to be taken up where they can invest, and sell their goods and services.

That is why there are several steps that the British government is taking to facilitate greater trade between our 2 countries.

Dialogues such as the JETCO are always the first step, allowing the business community on both sides of the Atlantic to have their voices heard at the highest level.

Whilst we remain in the European Union, the UK is committed to supporting a trade agreement between Mercosul and the EU; a historic step towards trade liberalisation by 2 of the world’s largest customs unions.

On a bilateral level, through sharing the UK’s wealth of expertise, we will work with Brazil to enable private and international investment in sustainable projects to protect the environment and promote growth; promote sustainable infrastructure in cities; reduce the costs for importers and exporters; and enable Brazil to make the most of its energy resource over the next 20 years.

UK Export Finance, one of the key arms of my new department, stands ready to support UK companies wishing to export to Brazil.

Their mantra is that no viable export should fail due to lack of finance or insurance, and they stand ready with up to a £250 million appetite to facilitate exports to your country.

Truly, the opportunities are vast, and I want to see government and business working closely together to create the best possible trading environment.

While we certainly have more to do, I would also like to take this opportunity to celebrate the strong commercial partnerships that already exist between Brazil and the UK.

Britcham has, for 100 years, been championing these partnerships, providing expertise, local knowledge, support and encouragement.

These partnerships span many industries, and stand as testament to your endeavours.

Oil and gas is one such success story, where UK firms have invested $5 billion over the past decade to develop the tremendous potential of the pre-salt oilfields and the associated supply chain.

This investment is set to double by 2020.

On defence and security, too, we enjoy a fruitful partnership.

Leading UK defence companies are delighted to be collaborating with Embraer on prestigious Brazilian programmes such as the development of the new KC-390 military transport aircraft, among the most advanced of its type in the world.

It is not all one way. The Royal Air Force recently selected the Embraer Phenom 100 jet as their new training aircraft, and it is a common sight to see Brazilian built commercial airliners in the skies over the UK.

But as well as these successes, I want to see trade expand beyond traditional areas of co-operation, and build strong commercial ties in new industries.

For example, the UK has much to offer in healthcare.

As a former doctor, I know the quality of our primary care systems, and combined with our expertise in public private partnership models, we have the potential help to improve the health of millions of Brazilians.

Opportunities abound in Infrastructure, too, as the Brazilian government doubles investment in this area from next year.

Significant reforms to the sector will greatly benefit UK businesses, and our world-leading consultancies and engineering firms stand ready to propel Brazil’s infrastructure into the next century.

As we celebrate our existing ties, and seek to build new ones, I want to issue a call to action.

During the course of my visit, many British companies have expressed their wish to address some of the challenges that still exist when doing business in Brazil.

We have heard much about the limitless opportunities that exist here today, yet if trade between us is to flourish, we must move swiftly to meet these challenges head-on.

Issues such as burdensome rules on local contact and the lack of double taxation agreements need to be dealt with if investors are to be reassured.

After my meeting with Trade Minister Pereira and others, I am confident that the political will exists, so let us act now to tackle these problems together strengthen our bilateral ties and send the clearest possible signal that Brazil is a great place to invest in for the future.

Finally, I would like to extend my congratulations to Jorge. His tireless efforts have injected a new energy into Britcham, and brought new life to this institution.

I welcome the initiative of the Anglo-Brazil business forum, and encourage each and every business here tonight to get involved, supporting Britcham as it goes from strength to strength.

And to businesses across the UK and Brazil I say this; our governments are listening. Your ideas are invaluable, and your innovations are the drivers of our prosperity. We will do our very best to support you in your endeavours across the Atlantic.

Your success is our country’s success.

As Britain turns to face the world, let us remember that, together, there is little that we cannot achieve given the political will and mutual bonds of friendship.

The next 100 years will be better.

Published 8 December 2016