Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne has today opened a new Consulate General in Recife, Brazil - the city which became home to one of the first ever British missions in South America in 1808.
The move is part of a wider ‘network shift’ announced by the Foreign Secretary in May this year, where he signalled the FCO’s intention to reinvigorate the diplomatic network to make it ready for the twenty-first century. The increased presence in Brazil is one of seven new Consulates General opening in emerging markets. Additionally there will be up to six new Embassies.
Expansion overseas, especially in emerging economies, is a sign of the importance the UK places on its diplomatic presence on the ground. Trade is vital to increase national prosperity and secure growth for the UK’s economy, and our Embassies play a key role in supporting British business. As the Foreign Secretary said in May, “the case for a strengthened network is utterly compelling.”
Recife, in Pernambuco, one of the fastest-growing states in the northeast of Brazil, has the second highest GDP per capita in the region and is the fourth biggest city in the country. It is also a vibrant business hub, home to numerous innovative British companies. Mr Browne said:
"I am delighted to be inaugurating the Consulate General in Recife. The UK wants to strengthen its relationship with Brazil and the rest of Latin America and this Consulate General is a concrete example of these intentions. It will enable us to work more effectively on the ground with the UK businesses that have established themselves there and to strengthen our cultural links with Brazil.
"At over US$1 trillion Brazil’s is the world’s eighth largest economy and represents almost half of South America’s total GDP. We must engage with this emerging and increasingly influential market. I have met with a large number of small and medium-sized firms here in Brazil, from those focused on the energy sector to construction companies and media firms. There are impressive opportunities here and the UK is keen to reach out and take them.
"2012 will be a unique year in UK-Brazil relations, as we also celebrate our sporting links. London’s Olympics will capture the world’s attention and we are looking forward to welcoming the Brazilian team to the UK."
The Minister’s visit is his third this year. It comes shortly after the sixth annual UK-Brazil JETCO (Joint Economic Trade Committee) talks held at Lancaster House in London, where Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable and Brazil’s Minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade Fernando Pimentel met to discuss bilateral and commercial links between the countries.
The British Council is also due to expand its operations in Recife, and Jeremy Browne has signed agreements with the Pernambuco government on increasing the teaching of English language in the state.
It is hoped that this will increase enthusiasm for the subject across the region and lead to further exchanges between schools and universities in the UK and Brazil as well as national and international businesses.
Whilst in Brazil, the Minister also visited the SUAPE port complex, one of the biggest in Latin America and home to a number of UK companies. Ship construction and oil refining are now at the heart of local industry, and SUAPE is a distribution centre for the oil, gas, offshore and shipping industries.
He finished his visit by consolidating the UK-Brazil sporting relationship, meeting young people who took part in the International Inspiration programme: London 2012’s main sport and education legacy initiative.
As the Olympic torch passes from London in 2012 to Rio in 2016, there is much expertise that the two countries can share, not just in business but in planning around the Games and for associated cultural events. The Minister was keen to emphasise Brazil’s importance to the UK across all areas, and the valuable expertise they can share with one another as they both seek to grow and strengthen their economies.