James Cleverly, United Kingdom's Foreign Minister, delivered a significant speech today in Santiago de Chile, outlining the United Kingdom's vision for its future relations with Latin America. Against the backdrop of the bicentennial celebration of the UK-Latin America relationship, Cleverly expressed his pride in the UK's historical support for the region's struggle for independence two centuries ago, positioning the UK as “the oldest friend of the region.”
Speaking at the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center, Cleverly addressed a gathering of young leaders, emphasizing the shared values between the UK and Latin America. He stressed that respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, self-determination, human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and freedom were not only the UK's values but also values cherished by Latin American nations.
Cleverly expressed his pride in the pivotal role played by the United Kingdom in supporting the independence struggles of Latin American nations two centuries ago, labeling the UK as the region's oldest friend.
The political tectonic plates are shifting once again, stated the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, highlighting the importance of this speech aimed at young leaders to emphasize the shared values that unite Latin America and the United Kingdom.
Cleverly emphasized the mutual values shared by the UK and Latin America, stating, Our position is clear. Respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, self-determination, and human rights, along with democracy, the rule of law, freedom, and liberty, must prevail. We know that these are also your values.
The Foreign Minister highlighted the partnership in addressing global issues such as climate change, defense of democracy and human rights, and ensuring free and open supply chains for critical minerals.
Regarding the 21st-century relations between the UK and Latin America, the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, We must have ambition for our future relationship. Not only because of the historic bonds of friendship that have united us for over 200 years, but also because we cherish the same fundamental values that inspired the creation of this international order. It will only evolve, survive, and prosper with the support and unwavering commitment of this great region.
Cleverly called for greater representation of Latin American countries in multinational organizations such as the UN, including a permanent seat for Brazil on the Security Council, stating, The demographic and economic weight [of Latin America] gives it a fundamental role in determining whether the international order will endure. But the multilateral institutions of our world need reform, particularly to give more voice and influence to Latin America.
With a population of 660 million people and a combined GDP of over six trillion dollars, Latin America represents a market with immense potential for the United Kingdom. Mexico, Chile, and Peru are among the region's countries that the UK will join in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which will boost British jobs, growth, and influence in the region.
To underscore the importance of engagement with Latin America, the Foreign Minister highlighted the commercial and investment opportunities arising from the UK's accession to the CPTPP: The total value of imports and exports increased by 45.4% last year to over £40 billion. However, considering that Latin America represents only 2.1% of UK imports and 2.6% of UK exports worldwide, I recognize that there is much more to be done in terms of trade and investment.
This event marks the first visit by a UK Foreign Minister to South America since 2018 when then-British Chancellor Boris Johnson visited Argentina and Peru. It reflects one of the UK's foreign policy objectives of maintaining historical friendships while forging new relationships beyond established alliances. In addition to Chile and Colombia, Cleverly will also travel to Brazil.
The speech in Santiago builds upon the Foreign Minister's commitment to deepen connections and engagements with countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, as stated in his December 12, 2022 address. Cleverly affirmed that the UK's global impact in the future will depend on forging a much broader range of global partnerships.