UK Minister for Latin America, Hugo Swire, spoke of the growing presence of UK in Latin America and more specifically on the expanding links with Paraguay. Minister Swire said UK was determined to deepen its commercial ties with a rising Latin America and described Paraguay as a perfect trade and investment partner for UK, particularly since British oil industry has struck oil in the Chaco region.
“The UK’s links with Latin America go back a long way. We were the first country to recognize the independence of many of the Latin American Republics that gained their freedom in the 19th century” said Swire.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the UK was the leading investor in most Latin American countries - with much of the region’s external trade passing through, or destined for, Britain.
“And British engineers helped to transform Paraguay into one of the leading industrial powers in South America. They helped build the railways, shipyards, a foundry and an arsenal. When I visited Asuncion, I remember seeing in the impressive central railway station, one of the first British-made steam locomotives to operate in the region”.
Unfortunately, in the aftermath of World War II, that golden era for British trade and investment in Latin America passed into history, and the UK lost market share steadily as the twentieth century progressed. “To some extent, the UK withdrew from Latin America”.
“But this Government has turned that around. As our former Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said almost four years ago to the day, in his Canning House speech: “We turned away from Latin America just as the region began to forge ahead: we believe that now is the time for Britain at last to think afresh about Latin America and the opportunities it presents”.
Four years on, ”we have seen that vision become a reality: over the next few years, opportunities will be opening up in hydrocarbons, infrastructure projects and financial services“.
On taking office, President Horacio Cartes described Paraguay as the ‘hidden treasure’ of Latin America. ”I agree with him: Paraguay boasts an abundance of natural resources; a low and simple tax system; competitive energy prices; and a stable macro economy”.
Last year the economy grew by over 13%; it is estimated to grow at around 4% this year; and over 6% in the years ahead. These are impressive figures.
So, the conditions are ripe for British trade and investment. The British Embassy in Asuncion has set an ambitious target of trebling British exports to Paraguay by 2018 – which it aims to achieve by helping both British businesses already operating in Paraguay and those that are looking to enter the market.
One way it can help is through its British Business Centre, located in the Embassy, offering British companies office space while they seek to establish themselves in the market.
Other ways are through practical advice and support from its UK Trade and Investment staff, including: trade missions; financial support; introductory market advice; identifying partners for joint ventures; or hosting networking events and product launches.
Minister Swire said he was pleased to see there are already a significant number of British companies with a presence in Paraguay or with plans for significant investment that have been supported by the Embassy - companies like Amerisur, President Energy, BAT, Diageo, Unilever, and De La Rue.
President Energy recently announced an historic first discovery of oil in the Paraguayan Chaco region - marking a significant milestone for Paraguay - and opening excellent opportunities for British companies with expertise at all levels of the hydrocarbons sector. Amerisur also hope to start drilling later this year, in the San Pedro region.
And in the financial services sector, De La Rue – who were instrumental in the printing of the first Guarani bank notes back in the 1940’s - have returned to Paraguay after recently securing a contract with the Central Bank to print its new bank notes.
Date: November 11, 2014