The Canning Agenda 10 Years On Conference

  • Canning House

On 10 November, Canning House hosted the Canning Agenda 10 Years On Conference, a decade and a day since the Agenda’s introduction in 2010. Read the event summary here.

The Canning Agenda

10 Years On Conference


On 10 November, Canning House hosted the Canning Agenda 10 Years On Conference, a decade and a day since the Agenda’s introduction in 2010.

The conference opened with Lord Mountevans, Honorary President of Canning House, introducing the history the Canning Agenda – all the way back to the life and legacy of its namesake, and that of Canning House, George Canning, the nineteenth-century British Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister. He then introduced the Conference’s first Keynote Speaker, Lord Hague of Richmond.

Lord Hague, who launched the Canning Agenda as British Foreign Secretary in 2010, spoke on the decline of Britain's historic relationship with Latin America, and encouraged a renewed spirit of cooperation between our regions, with reference to the motivations, progress and future of the Agenda after its first decade. His speech touched on wide-ranging issues including globalisation and free trade, Brexit, Covid-19 and climate change.

Session 1 - Reviewing the Agenda

Session 1 of the Conference – Reviewing the Agenda – was chaired by Victor Bulmer-Thomas CMG OBE. In his opening remarks, Victor highlighted the difference between speeches and results, emphasizing that question marks remain over the Canning Agenda’s progress thus far.

Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary General of SEGIB, delivered the panel’s first presentation. Her focus was on a review of a number of the Agenda’s priorities – poverty and inequality, democracy and the rule of law, and climate change – must be adapted for 2020’s Latin America, given the disproportionate effects of the Covid-19 crisis, and how the UK can serve as a major partner in the region’s recovery.

Next, Jeremy Browne, a Canning House Honorary Vice-President (HVP), spoke on his involvement as the figure responsible for the Agenda’s implementation in its first years. His experience as the Minister responsible for Latin America demonstrated to him a low level of familiarity with Latin America in the UK, and a resultant “shortfall of attention” which he endeavored to reverse. While there remains a long way to go, Jeremy argued, there remain clear avenues for progress, with a more receptive system and on-the-ground expansion.

Since 2015, Joanna Crellin CMG has taken charge of the Agenda’s implementation in terms of trade. While general trends have been modestly positive, she views Brexit as an exciting opportunity for UK-LatAm relations – with the pursuit of continuity and new trade agreements forcing high-level conversations, with the recognition that there is much to gain from alliances such as CPTPP and Mercosur, and much to offer from the UK’s expertise in sustainable, green development.

Finally, Thomas Mills, lecturer at Lancaster University, put forward that despite a generally less-than-impressive performance thus far, there are trends suggesting a much-needed strategic reorientation in the Canning Agenda, with an increasing focus on middle-income countries, and the potential for Brexit and “Global Britain” to reinvigorate UK engagement with Latin America.

Audience questions from Session 1 addressed the importance of Latin American students in the UK, the awareness of the Canning Agenda in Latin America, the potential stumbling-block of deforestation, and whether the UK is arriving “late to the party” in the region.

The Conference’s second Keynote speaker, Mark Menzies MP, highlighted key areas for the UK to continue focusing its efforts in the next 10 years – the need for sustainable, reciprocal trade; improving market access; driving clean growth and maximizing Latin American economic opportunities. He celebrated successes, such as the UK-Peru partnership for the 2019 Pan-American games and subsequent G2G agreement, and the great levels of activity of the Latin America APPGs and BGIPU. Finally, he emphasized that “the Canning Agenda is not just 10 years.”

Session 2 - The Future of the Canning Agenda

Session 2 – the Future of the Canning Agenda – was chaired by Michael Stott, Latin America editor at the Financial Times, who hailed the region’s success stories and how the UK can take advantage of the great opportunities available, without neglecting the challenges.

Baroness Hooper CMG, a Canning House HVP, spoke on the combined role of the government and business communities to provide a conducive environment for engagement. In particular, in her newly appointed role as the PM’s Trade Envoy to Panama, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, she discussed the opportunities for the UK to do things differently in Central America and the Caribbean in a post-Covid, post-Brexit world.

Providing an “on-the-ground” perspective, HE Ambassador Corin Robertson highlighted the great expansion in British diplomatic presence in Latin America over the last decade, and the importance of this to the UK’s goals in Latin America on green growth and prosperity, value alignment, building back better from Covid-19, and regional and global security.

Enrique García, Canning House VP and former head of CAF – Development Bank of Latin America, recognised the global changes shaping UK-LatAm relations, from the 4th industrial revolution to trends in attitudes to globalisation and nationalism. He particularly emphasized the need to avoid complacency, as the tailwinds of the early 2000s have turned to the headwinds of Covid-19 and climate change, with need for investment and public-private partnerships essential to any medium-term vision.

Julie T Katzman, former COO of the Inter-American Development Bank, spoke on Latin America's prospects in achieving sustainable development, highlighting both the urban and rural sides, and the benefits the UK can bring to the table in that regard. She emphasised in particular that those benefits are available for both sides - the UK and Latin America - and that with time a successful relationship can be built on the foundations of the Canning Agenda.

Maria Atkinson from De La Rue discussed where the UK business community needs to focus its efforts in Latin America to generate success. Though much good work has already been done, she stressed, in the face of unprecedented challenges efforts need to be redoubled, with focus on creating a level playing field for trade, and ensuring a constructive dialogue.

Questions from Session 2 covered Brexit and trade barriers, the language barrier, the importance of education in Latin America, the potential closure of the Institute of Latin American studies, UK-Latin American cultural links, and more.

For his closing address, Ranil Jayawardena MP assured that the Canning Agenda's importance is understood at the heart of the UK government, and spoke on the efforts - which are already bearing fruit - towards mutually beneficial, liberalising trade agreements, the necessity of boosting British trade with Latin America, and the "once in a generation" opportunity presented by the region.

Finally, HE Ambassador Iván Romero Martínez, Dean of GRULA and Ambassador of Honduras to the UK, announced GRULA's intention to propose an update to the Canning Agenda for the next decade.

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