Greg Hands MP on deepening the UK’s trade with Latin America

  • Freddy Nevison-Andrews

On Tuesday, 14 May, Canning House was delighted to host Greg Hands MP, Minister of State for Trade and Minister for London, for a Business Breakfast.

Greg Hands MP on deepening the UK’s trade with Latin America

On Tuesday, 14 May, Canning House was delighted to host Greg Hands MP, Minister of State for Trade and Minister for London, for a Business Breakfast.

Attended by a mixture of senior businesspeople, diplomats and government officials, this roundtable breakfast provided a unique opportunity to speak with Minister Hands MP on the British government's approach to trade policy and the great opportunities the United Kingdom (UK) and London have to offer Latin America.

Following brief words of welcome by Jeremy Browne, CEO of Canning House, Greg began his remarks by offering context on his role as Minister for Trade, within the Department for Business and Trade (DBT). Originally formed as the Department for International Trade following the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), the Department is responsible for setting the UK’s trade policy, independent from that of the EU since 2016.

Broadly, initial policy was set by rolling over EU trade agreements into the UK’s own policy, including those the European bloc has struck with Latin American countries and blocs. Updates to those deals, which the Minister suggested were making them “more liberal” and removing “practical barriers” to trade, are complete or ongoing in several cases.

Regarding the UK’s trading relationship with Latin America, whilst Greg hailed the £25Bn of exports the UK made to Latin America in 2023, up 6% on the previous year, he nevertheless emphasised that the figure represents a great deal of “unrealised potential.”

In particular, the Minister pointed to UK Export Finance (UKEF) as an especially useful tool for British businesses looking to expand their exports. Through financing and insurance, UKEF helps UK exporters to reach new markets by providing credit to businesses of all sizes.

Looking at the UK’s relationships across the region, Greg highlighted its good relations and free trade agreements (FTA) including those with the Andean countries (Colombia, Ecuador and Peru), Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) and Caribbean countries through CARIFORUM. The UK also has bilateral FTAs in place with Chile and Mexico.

Though the UK does not presently have an agreement in place nor negotiation ongoing with Mercosur or its constituents (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), the Minister pointed to smaller, practical steps, such as the UK’s double taxation agreement with Brazil, as signs of progress with those countries.

Lastly, Greg spoke on the UK’s membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). As the bloc’s first non-Pacific member, he put forward that the UK made the agreement a “global” one, and that the group will set the “global trade rules of the future.” The Minister will shortly be attending a ministerial meeting on CPTPP, in Peru. Chile, Mexico and Peru are founding members of the agreement, and Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay have applied to join.

The discussion then opened to comments and questions from the roundtable. These included thoughts on the UK’s economic relationship with countries including Peru, Argentina and Brazil, the possibility of a UK-Mercosur agreement, deepening relationships with Central America, agricultural trade and food security, and progress on an updated UK-Mexico agreement. Finally, Greg spoke briefly on the upcoming general election in the UK, likely to take place in 2024.

Canning House thanks Greg for his participation in this Business Breakfast; and our attendees for their engagement and interest.

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