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I shall talk about climate change policy in Latin America with especial reference to Brazil. Climate change poses massive threats to the Latin American subcontinent. To take one example, rapid tropical glacier retreat is observed in the Andes, with enormous implications for future water supply for the countries affected. Brazil is a front-line country for climate change. Even in the short term, it faces significant adverse changes in its ecosystems. As the right reverend Prelate rightly observed and discussed in a most interesting way, it is home to much of the Amazon basin, one of

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the world's greatest natural resources, but one under threat should periods of prolonged drought become more common-and they seem to be becoming more common, especially given the big drought of about four years ago. Deforestation in the Amazon is a major source of humanly created carbon emissions.

Brazil is an extremely interesting country in terms of climate change policy. It has quite a different energy profile from most other countries-not only in the developing but in the developed world. Forty per cent of its energy, and twice that proportion of its electricity-more than 80 per cent-come from renewable sources. Virtually no other country in the world has a profile like that. It famously launched an ethanol programme in 1975 as a response to worries about energy security. More than half the cars in the country are flexi-fuel-they can run on 100 per cent ethanol or petrol, or a mixture of the two. The use of biomass for energy production, involving wood pulp and other sources, is highly advanced in Brazil. It therefore has a very interesting and almost unique energy profile.

President Lula introduced a comprehensive national climate change programme earlier this year. It was an ambitious set of policies. It marks the first time that a large developing country has set itself stringent carbon reduction targets, although they are voluntary rather than legally binding. The stated target is to cut emissions by between 36 per cent and 38 per cent by 2020, which propels the country right to the vanguard in world society. It is a target beyond that offered, for example, by the European Union. Crucially, Brazil's mitigation activities will be quantifiable and verifiable, making them open to international scrutiny-something that the other large developing countries, India and China, have so far not put into practice.

Brazil therefore has the opportunity dramatically to influence international negotiations on carbon reduction. It was one of the five countries that made up the so-called BASIC group that created the Copenhagen accord following the conference in Copenhagen last December. The others were the United States, China, India and South Africa. The large developing countries are often seen as blocking effective international policy on the control of carbon emissions, but Brazil shows otherwise.

The success of the country in meeting its targets will depend significantly on how far it can effectively tackle land use and deforestation. These count for the large bulk of its greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil has a distinctly patchy record in this respect, but there are signs of progress. The country is involved in a number of bilateral relations with other states in which deforestation is a vital issue, such as in Indonesia. It has also signed up to a climate policy dialogue with the United States.

Hillary Clinton's interesting speech in Quito earlier this month marked a significant shift in the United States's policies towards Latin America. She spoke of creating what she called a community of the Americas. It is entirely appropriate that a climate change strategy should be a key part of this new approach, and in such a dialogue the US has at least as much to learn from Brazil as the other way around.

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1.11 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, for many decades now, Britain has not been giving the priority that it should have done to its relations with the countries of Latin America. Diplomatic posts have been closed and thinned out, ministerial visits have been few and far between and at a junior level, and our trade and investment have fallen behind those of our main competitors from both Europe and elsewhere. Latin America has become a group of far-away countries of which we know little-and this in a country that played, as other noble Lords have said, an important role both politically and commercially in the first century of every one of Latin America's states' histories-so the excellent initiative taken by my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein to debate our relationship with Latin America is really timely, all the more so as it comes just after a new Government have come to office and a new ministerial team has been installed in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Britain's relative neglect of its relations with the countries of Latin America is all the more regrettable in that it has coincided with the rise in world economic and political rankings of a number of those countries. Not only does Brazil supply the "B" in the acronym BRICs, which has become synonymous with the leading emerging countries, but there are three Latin American countries-Brazil, Argentina and Mexico-in the G20, which now has the principal co-ordinating role on global economic issues.

A good number of Latin American countries have paid the painful transition from military-dominated authoritarian regimes to relatively stable democracies with much improved human rights records. There have also been some remarkable economic success stories: Chile and Brazil prominent among them. We are therefore missing a lot of tricks, and we have quite a lot of catching up to do. Some of that catching up surely needs to be done through our membership of the European Union, and here I welcome the maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, and what he had so say about Europe in general and its relationship with Latin America in particular, with which I agree wholeheartedly. The establishment of the EU's External Action Service provides an opportunity to thicken up and to strengthen Europe's, including our, overall relationship with Latin America. It is high time, surely, to dust off the trade negotiating file between the EU and Mercosur and to try to bring those negotiations to a conclusion.

Of course Europe will not provide us, or anyone else, with a soft option. The days when the elites of Latin America looked almost automatically towards Europe as an alternative to their fraught relationship with the United States are past or passing, as indigenous leaders come to the fore in a number of Latin American countries and as new players-China and India-muscle in on Latin American markets. However, Europe will continue to matter to Latin America, if only it can learn to speak with a single voice and to make itself heard.

Any strengthened British relationship with Latin America has, I suggest, to begin with Brazil-the regional giant, if not a superpower-but, economically

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and in world politics, that country is on the rise. This October, a new President will be elected, and we need to build a new, broader and more mature relationship with her or his new Administration. It will not be entirely easy or straightforward, as reactions to Brazil's recent efforts to broker a deal over Iran's enriched uranium have shown. Reactions to that deal have tended to be either dismissive or submissive. Neither is the right response. The deal itself if Iran were to implement it, which now seems highly unlikely, could have bought some time, but it did not address effectively the wider issue of Iran's nuclear programme as its centrifuges continued to spin, so it was a bit unwise to suggest that it did or that it precluded the need for another round of sanctions. We need a much deeper, broader and ongoing dialogue with Brazil that covers the whole range of international politics, and I hope the Minister will say that we intend to build that up.

I will say a few words, if I may, about our aid efforts in Latin America. Here, I declare an interest, because one of my sons runs an activity centre for deprived children in one of the most poverty-stricken parts of greater Sao Paolo. It is quite right that the main thrust of our aid effort should be poverty elimination, but I hope that we will not be persuaded by any general statistics that demonstrate rising economic growth in Latin America into thinking that there is no need and no justification for a continued effort by us in that continent. The plight of deprived and abused children, which I have seen at first hand, is truly terrible in many parts of Latin America. With our skills, our experience and well-directed resources, we can do something to make a difference, and I trust that we will continue to do so.

I have one final thought. In recent years, the developed world has found it more difficult to work with Latin American countries at the UN and in other international organisations than in the past. On human rights, our agendas seem to have drifted apart. We really cannot afford simply to accept that as a continuing trend. If we cannot work effectively with Latin American countries across a wide range of global issues when that region is less troubled by security and governance problems than pretty well any other part of the developing world, we really will be in poor shape as we search for global solutions to the global challenges that face us. I so much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, had to say on climate change, which is a perfect example of that issue. I therefore hope that we will put our backs into this relationship in a way that we have not done in recent years.

1.18 pm

Baroness Coussins: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, on his determination and success in securing this debate. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, on his impressive maiden speech.

I will raise two issues: first, the contribution that some UK-based NGOs are making to human rights, anti-poverty and development programmes in Latin America; and, secondly, the importance of encouraging the learning of Spanish and Portuguese in our schools and universities if we are to maximise our business opportunities in Latin America.

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The economic ascendancy of Brazil is impressive, as we have heard from a number of noble Lords. It has the lowest unemployment figures since 2001, growth is expected to be at least 6 per cent this year, its economy is predicted to become one of the five largest in the world in the next 30 years, and it will host the 2014 football world cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. However, this success in one country masks a very different picture elsewhere in Latin America, where human rights abuses, poverty, discrimination and corruption inhibit economic and democratic participation. I will give just two examples to illustrate what UK NGOs are doing to help.

First, I pay tribute to the work of the UK section of Peace Brigades International, PBI. It sends trained volunteers as human rights defenders operating as observers, accompanying vulnerable individuals under threat and acting as a kind of information go-between for representatives of the international community, the civil authorities and those involved in conflict. It has volunteers in Colombia, among other places, providing protection in a region riddled with internal armed conflict involving killings, kidnapping, torture and extortion. Between 1999 and 2008, Colombia had the highest number of landmine victims in the world, higher even than Afghanistan. The UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples has reported the extreme vulnerability of such groups, who are at risk of total physical or cultural extinction. The human rights defenders routinely face hostility, including death threats which are sometimes carried out. Similarly in Mexico, where Amnesty International has put on record its particular concern about the widespread discrimination against women, PBI has volunteers who are at risk.

I am sure that the clock should not say nine minutes.

In October last year, the then Foreign Secretary, Mr David Miliband MP, acknowledged the important role played by human rights defenders and called on the Colombian Government publicly to support their work and to provide a sufficient and secure level of state protection for those under threat. I should like to ask the Minister in his reply to reassure the House that the coalition Government will also actively pursue this policy. As regards Mexico, I should like to know what bilateral and multilateral initiatives the Government are planning to take to ensure that human rights defenders receive greater protection from the Mexican authorities. Will he also say what steps the UK is taking to ensure the full implementation of the EU guidelines on human rights defenders?

I also pay tribute to the work of VSO, which since 2008 has operated in five Latin American countries-Bolivia, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala and El Salvador-in addition to its programme in Guyana which has been in place since 1964. Its volunteers help to promote the employability of young people, the sustainability of natural resources, and the access to justice for the poor and marginalised, particularly women and children. In Peru, for example, 29 per cent of the population is aged under 15, 35 per cent do not have access to justice for a variety of reasons, and human rights abuses of certain racial and ethnic groups have resulted in many thousands of deaths, disappearances and acts of discrimination.

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One of the many contributions of VSO has been the anti-discrimination training it has supplied to public authorities and the police. This helped to pave the way for local anti-discrimination legislation. It is easy to miss the actual, real-life impact of such a development at such a distance when we are so used to debating and legislating for every last detail of discrimination. There follows an example of what it changed in Peru: before the legislation, no one could enter a public building without a national identity card. People from distant villages whose mother tongue was not Spanish often had no means to obtain their ID card, so they had no access to basic services. Now, that requirement to have ID as an entry ticket has been swept away and the measure has been so successful that other regions are copying it.

That mention of the Spanish language leads me to my other point and here I declare an interest as chair of the All-Party Group on Modern Languages. If UK businesses are to take advantage of emerging markets in Latin America, they will need people who can speak Spanish and Portuguese. Sadly, the lack of language skills in the UK workforce and the general decline in foreign language learning is undermining our international business competitiveness.

It has been estimated that up to £21 billion is being lost to the UK economy every year because of our languages deficit. Currently, the UK does only half as much business with Brazil, which has a population of 200 million, as it does with Denmark, which has a population of 5 million. Brazil is the world's fifth biggest country but only our 30thbiggest export market. Even so, that makes it the UK's biggest market in Latin America. Mexico is next, but no other Latin American country is in our top 50. Will the Minister say what is being done to promote trade between Mercosur and EU countries? UKTI has pointed to the importance of networks in promoting bilateral trade and this is precisely where and why knowledge of the relevant languages comes in. English is important, vital even, but it is not enough. UK export businesses which have proactively valued and used language skills have reported a 45 per cent increase in sales.

Interestingly, Spanish is the one European language bucking the trend at GCSE, with take-up increasing instead of declining. This is good news and businesses should be aware of it and more up-front in advertising their wish to recruit people with Spanish or other language skills. Spanish is the fourth most widely used language on the internet and is the second most spoken language in the world after Mandarin. Yet the value of UK exports to the 19 Spanish-speaking nations of Latin America is only £1.9 billion. There is a great deal of potential waiting to be tapped.

London alone has nearly 12,000 schoolchildren who speak Portuguese. That language now figures prominently on the employers' list of languages that they would like to see among their staff, as confirmed in the CBI's latest survey published last month. There is a campaign to add Portuguese to the list of the six official languages of the United Nations. If that is successful, there will be even more pressure than there is already on the UK to produce more linguists to work as interpreters and translators.

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The popularity of Latin America as a gap-year destination has undoubtedly added to the interest in learning Spanish and Portuguese, but our shortfall in this area is so shameful that it really needs some firm, clear leadership from government to ensure that we are properly equipped to contribute to and take advantage of the economic benefits arising from emerging markets in Latin America, as well as the intercultural understanding needed to sustain relationships and success.

1.27 pm

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, on securing this debate at this particular time. It is now, as he said, a few years since we held a dedicated Latin America debate in your Lordships' House, but the interest and contributions from your Lordships today underline the value of holding such a debate. This is a particularly interesting time in the affairs of many Latin American countries. Like others, I rejoice in the results of the latest elections in Colombia. Former President Uribe is a good example to everyone in not having tried to stand for a further term, as he must have been tempted to do.

I also represented Her Majesty's Government at the inauguration of Evo Morales for his second term in office. The noble Baroness, Lady Gibson, talked in detail, and most interestingly, about Bolivia. However, I believe that we should not only look closely at what is happening in the energy sector in Bolivia; we should also remember the changing role of indigenous people in Latin America and the cross-boundary/cross-border effects that this increasing alignment may have. That could well be the subject for a further and separate debate.

This debate is timely also because of the recent developments in relations between the United States and Latin America, to which reference has already been made. I am rather concerned about the attitude of President Obama and Hilary Clinton as regards, for example, our relationship with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. However, this is also an excellent moment to underline for the new Government the significance of Latin American countries in world affairs and the value of our special relationship.

I do not need to repeat, but would like to emphasise, all that has been said about the historic links that bind us, whether we are talking about the independence movements, the bicentenaries of which we are currently celebrating, or the other historic links that include the founding of the navies of Chile and Brazil by Admiral the Lord Corcoran-who has a special association with your Lordships' House since, until 1998, a direct descendant of Lord Corcoran sat on the Red Benches.

I would also emphasise the importance of the ongoing trade and investment links which British companies have maintained in Latin American countries. Amazingly, these links survive despite the focus and priority that, I am sorry to say, successive Governments have given to other parts of the world. Perhaps I should declare interests as a former president and current vice-president of Canning House and as vice-chairman of the Institute for the Study of the Americas. While the right reverend

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Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool was speaking, I reflected on the fact that the reason I learnt to speak Spanish and take an interest in Latin America, following a postgraduate course there, is that my mother came from Liverpool. Liverpool is the port of the Americas and my mother realised the importance and significance of the Spanish language. I am happy that the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, was able to emphasise that point so well.

Like the noble Viscount and others, I deplore the way in which the official British presence in Latin America is diminishing through the closures and downsizing of our embassies and the British Council. In the Evening Standard last night, I noticed a rather caustic comment to the effect that the high life enjoyed by British diplomats abroad faces the axe. The Foreign Office already has a £55 million efficiency programme that includes spending less on consultants, closer working with other departments, increasing the sell-off of embassy space and cutting low-priority programmes. We must all regard this with grave concern because it builds on the many cuts and downsizing programmes that have been carried out in the past. I can only hope for and seek reassurance from the Minister that the axe will not fall inordinately heavily in Latin American countries.

Fortunately, our relations with Latin America are not just bilateral. The European Union is the channel through which many of our activities in overseas development, and our policies in relation to the American, Caribbean and Pacific group of states, have an impact-in the latter case, particularly in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries. It may well be that in the future the lack of bilateral representation in Latin American countries will be replaced by EU representative offices. I would be interested to hear the Minister's comments on that possibility.

Reference has already been made to the trade agreements between the European Union and Mexico, Brazil and Chile, as well as negotiations with the Mercosur countries and so on. I would be interested to know if any reviews or analyses have been undertaken into the effect of these trade agreements. Can the Minister give us any information about this? If I remember correctly, as far as the first of those trade agreements-I believe it was with Mexico-is concerned, the effect was to increase greatly the importation of European Union goods into Mexico but not the reverse, which should be the object of the exercise. In all this, I hope we may also have an assurance from my noble friend that the United Kingdom will play its part in European Union policy formulation with regard to Latin America and not leave it to Spain and Portugal, perhaps the traditional colonial powers in Latin America. But we are also increasingly working together, particularly with Brazil and Mexico, within other international organisations such as the United Nations, the IMF, the OECD, the G20 and the G8. All these links have been referred to and it is important to remember them in our efforts to improve our bilateral relations.

When faced with a debate in the broad terms of the noble Viscount's Motion, it is often difficult to know where to place the focus. The countries we are talking about have diverse populations, different contributions to make and different needs to fulfil-from Mexico in

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the north, through the Caribbean and central American countries, to the furthest reaches of Patagonia bordering on Antarctica-with, as the noble Viscount said at the outset, a combined GDP equal to that of China. Nevertheless, because of the common colonial history of those countries, the two mainly used official languages-rather than the indigenous languages-the many cultural links and the apparent common risk of natural catastrophes which seem to afflict many countries, particularly the hurricane and the volcano zones of the west coast, we are tempted to regard Latin America as more of an entity than the countries themselves would wish. Rather than concentrate on individual countries, I have decided to deal with certain common issues.

I shall start with one of the difficult ones, that of drug trafficking. This remains a huge problem throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Only last night, a BBC news programme highlighted the emergence of problems in Monterrey, Mexico's most advanced industrial centre and a thriving and prosperous state-of-the-art city. That was sad news to me. Peru, we are told, has now overtaken Colombia as the main producer of the coca leaf. Interestingly, Colombia's output has dropped by some 16 per cent, which shows what can be achieved. I believe that the United Kingdom, as a consumer country along with the whole of the rest of Europe, has a duty to do its part in the fight against drugs in order to lower demand. Here I refer back to 1990 when my noble friend Lord Garel-Jones, then Minister of State with responsibility for Latin America, attended the important and successful drug summit. Leaders of many of the Latin American countries most concerned, together with representatives of the consumer countries, got together and tried to look at both sides of the issue.

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