Hague pledges Latin America links
Long-standing differences with Argentina over the Falklands must not be an "obstacle" to revitalising Britain's relationship with Latin America, Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
In a keynote speech in London, Mr Hague said that the coalition Government was determined to end Britain's "neglect" of a region which offered major opportunities for trade and investment.
He pointed out that while at the start of the First World War Britain had accounted for 50% of the foreign investment in Latin America and 20-25% of its overseas trade, now barely 1% of international exports to the region came from the UK.
Mr Hague said that while there would be no change in the UK's position on the Falklands, ministers would do all they could to deepen Britain's links with the region while helping UK firms access markets there.
"We will halt the decline in Britain's diplomatic presence in Latin America. Britain's retreat from the region is over, and it is now time for an advance to begin," he said.
"For history teaches us that Britain has a track record of underestimating Latin America and neglecting its opportunities. It is this neglect that the current British Government is determined to address.
"It is our intention not to let differences come in the way of closer co-operation. There will be no change to Britain's long-standing position on the Falkland Islands. But this should not be an obstacle to the positive relations we seek."
Mr Hague said that coalition ministers had already made a number of visits to countries in the region while Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg would be leading a ministerial and trade delegation there next year.
He voiced Britain's support for Brazil to be given a permanent seat on a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council.
At the same time, he promised that the Government would not "gloss over" problems of poverty, inequality and serious violence which marked parts of the region and said that Britain was committed to working with the Colombian government to improve human rights in that country.