Strengthening Britain’s bilateral relationships throughout Latin America has become a strategic priority under the U.K.’s current government. Nowhere is this more evident than in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, where recent visits by senior British officials highlight enhanced collaboration in the spheres of security and economic cooperation. Yet as Britain looks to build upon these successes, it must overcome some major hurdles if it is to truly unlock the wealth of potential opportunities available to it throughout the wider region.
In February 2014, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague undertook his first official trip to Colombia, marking the latest episode in what has become an almost continuous flow of senior British ministerial visits to Latin America. The U.K.’s growing footprint in the region follows the announcement Hague made in November 2010 that Latin America had become a key focus of British foreign policy. During his stay in Colombia, Hague met with Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, and the ministers of finance, foreign affairs and defense. Topics discussed ranged from environmental issues to Britain’s support for efforts to tackle the illegal drugs trade and a joint commitment to work together on the U.K. government’s flagship Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative.
From Colombia, Hague traveled to Brazil to meet with leaders to discuss progress on the European Union-Mercosur free trade agreement, international security issues, human rights, Internet governance, commercial opportunities and future U.K.-Brazil collaboration on development in Africa. Hague’s trip followed an earlier visit that month to Colombia and Mexico by U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who announced Britain’s latest trade aspirations for the region—including reaching a trade target in Colombia of $7 billion by the end of 2015 and doubling the U.K.’s market share in Mexico to 1.5 percent by 2020.