My Lords, in the short time available in this wide-ranging debate, I wish to focus on Latin America. Last year I had the privilege of attending, as the Government’s special envoy, the inauguration of three new Presidents following fair and free elections in June in El Salvador, in July in Panama and in December in Argentina. President Bukele of El Salvador, at 37 the youngest President in the Americas, faces huge challenges but is determined to ensure that El Salvador should be a country in which people wish to live, remain and invest rather than looking north and emigrating. President Laurentino Cortizo of Panama seeks to increase Panama’s strategic geographical advantages by also ensuring good governance, rule of law, a competitive economy and inequality reduction. President Alberto Fernández of Argentina, in spite of references to sovereignty in the south Atlantic in his inaugural speech, seemed to me a person we can do business with to pursue many of the initiatives currently in place.
All three new Presidents expressed to me their hope and wish to increase and improve relations with the United Kingdom. The good will expressed in those three countries exists throughout Latin America, from Mexico through central America and down to the tip of Patagonia. In part, this is because of the historic support that Great Britain gave some 200 years ago for its independence movements. That support may be not thought of much here but is well remembered throughout the region. In part, it is also because the United Kingdom has always been seen as a solid, stable and dependable country, with values to be relied upon. There is tremendous respect for our institutions; I only hope that recent events have not diminished this view too much. But I also hope that we take advantage of these favourable signals because the opportunities for trade and investment, and for co-operation and partnership in Latin America, are considerable.
In the field of education, for example, it is not just about the teaching of English and the links between universities and other educational institutions. There is also enormous scope for our education supplies industry. On renewable energy, as my noble friend the Minister said in opening and as the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, has just said, we can contribute much from our knowledge and expertise. We can also learn because Brazil, for example, has made huge strides with biomass energy through ethylene being used not only to heat homes but to fly aeroplanes. There is plenty of scope on climate change, with Colombia and Brazil being the most biodiverse countries in the world while Amazonia provides the lungs of the world—that is, not just Brazil but Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. Antarctica also gives us great scope for research and scientific co-operation. The launch of the Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly in London last September to help co-ordinate research is an important step forward. In Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, as another example, the Charles Darwin Foundation is currently celebrating its 70th anniversary with great success.
The late Lord Davidson founded Canning House in 1948 because he understood that the British Empire was coming to an end, and had the foresight to recognise that we had to find a new role in the world. Canning House continues to work to fulfil this role and I am proud to be a former president, and currently a vice-president, of it. George Canning famously said 200 years ago:
“I called the New World into existence, to redress the balance of the Old.”
Those words seem very appropriate for us today.
Latin America is still the new world and it behoves the old world—that is, us in Europe and this country in particular—to see its countries on our priority list, especially when we think of the competition and, in that respect, of China. In spite of the fact that there was no direct reference to Latin America in the Queen’s Speech I hope that my noble friend the Minister, who has a mammoth task in winding up this debate, will be able to give me some reassurance and encouragement that Latin American countries and the region as a whole are firmly in our focus in post-Brexit Britain.