The UK will reinforce and expand its diplomatic presence in Latin America beefing up embassies and reopening others that have been closed in recent years, said Foreign Secretary William Hague.
In a foreign policy speech Hague underlined that it was crucial for the UK to increase its influence in emerging countries and regions such as China, India and Latin America.
Hague regretted that the previous Labour governments had closed an estimated forty embassies and overseas diplomatic offices world-wide, “for example four in Latin America, an emerging power in the global economy”.
This withdrawal sent the “worst possible message from London” precisely when the continent “was beginning its unquestionable economic surge”, said Hague.
To overcome the situation Hague anticipated that the embassies in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Panama and Peru would be reinforced while the post in El Salvador will be re-opened.
A new consulate will be inaugurated in Recife, northeast Brazil.
Overall the UK has opened or is in the process of opening six new embassies world wide, as recently happened in Southern Sudan and Kyrgyzstan, and seven consulates that will add to the 140 diplomatic missions in 158 countries.
Other countries were the British presence is scheduled to be reinforced are India (30 more staff), China (50 more diplomats), South and North Korea, Thailand, Mongolia, Burma, Vietnam and Pakistan.
In the speech which was also posted online Hague said: I formed the firm view in opposition that the Foreign Office had been devalued and sidelined in British government, too often ignored by prime ministers and weakened as an institution.
After years in which the level of ambition of ministers has been that government departments are simply fit for purpose, in the Foreign Office we have set ourselves the goal of excellence in every crucial area of our work.
Hague promised a return to a first line British foreign policy after years of neglect under previous Labour governments.
However former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Labour had increased spending on the FCO and accused Mr Hague of setting out a parody of the department.
Hague told the BBC his plans were achievable despite a 10% budget cut, and insisted it would be a false economy to reduce Britain's overseas presence when there were more and more centres of decision-making in the world.
We've got to have the strong, deep bilateral relationships as well and I think that point was missed by the previous government said Hague.
But Straw, who was Labour foreign secretary between 2001 and 2006, rejected Mr Hague's allegations, calling his speech strong on rhetoric and very short on facts.
Spending on the Foreign Office rose under Labour and is being cut under Hague,” he told the BBC.