58.We regret that ministerial visits to Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru have declined in recent months, and encourage the Government to restore the earlier level of engagement.
59.The increased seniority of UK observers at Pacific Alliance Summits since 2018 demonstrates the UK’s willingness to engage constructively with the group, but we believe that engagement at ministerial level is the best way to make an impact at such summit meetings.
60.The Government appears to lack a coherent, well thought-through approach to Latin America as a whole, and to its regional and sub-regional organisations. Many of the countries in the region—including the members of the Pacific Alliance—are ones with which the UK shares considerable common ground on policy issues, such as on the global economy, trade, sustaining the rules-based international order, upholding human rights and addressing climate change.
61.There are many different regional organisations and groupings in Latin America. It is in the UK’s interest to maintain engagement with all of these bodies, seeking to influence their policies and work with each of them.
62 .The Pacific Alliance is a relatively new regional group, with a consciously inter-governmental and consensus-driven approach to integration. There is significant potential for greater trade and economic integration between the four countries.
63.The UK should deepen its engagement with the Pacific Alliance as an active observer state, as well as strengthening bilateral ties with Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. They are like-minded democracies which are committed to free trade, with which there is scope for the UK to work more closely on a range of international issues.
64.Strong relations with Pacific Alliance countries will be invaluable should the UK seek to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership after Brexit, to strengthen its trade with the Asia Pacific region. Three of its members—Chile, Mexico and Peru—are signatories and Colombia is in negotiations to join.
65.Latin America is an increasingly important part of the global economy. However, the UK’s trade with Latin America as a whole (1.5% of total UK exports and 1.3% of imports), and with the four countries of the Pacific Alliance in particular (0.7% of total UK exports and 0.6% of imports) , is extremely modest. We were frankly amazed to see the paucity of commercial activity with a vibrant part of the globe, where the potential is so great. We would welcome further information from the Government about the significance it places on the region in the UK’s post-Brexit trade strategy, and what targets it has to increase trade with the Pacific Alliance countries.
66.Considerable care will be needed to ensure that the respective roles of the Trade Commissioner for Latin America, of the Trade Envoys, and of the UK’s ambassadors in Latin American countries are clearly defined. We are not convinced that this is yet the case, and we regret that we were not permitted to take evidence from the Trade Envoys.
67.We are concerned that the Department for International Trade’s support to UK businesses is not sufficient to have a significant positive impact on UK trade with Latin America. We were disappointed to hear that the UK Export Strategy does not mention language skills and that, since the disbanding of UK Trade and Investment, there is no one-to-one assistance on language and culture provided to business. We recommend that the Department for International Trade should review its service in this regards.
68.To assist businesses and other interested parties, the Government should set out clearly how it is engaging with the Pacific Alliance, the workstreams and technical groups to which it is contributing, and how UK organisations can engage in this work.
69.We welcome the award of over 400 Chevening scholarships to candidates from Pacific Alliance countries since 2015. We recommend that the Government should maintain, or increase, the number of scholarships in future.
70.The Government should seriously consider removing its short-term visa requirements for citizens of Peru and Colombia visiting the UK. The current visa regime risks inhibiting business, academic exchanges and tourism.
71.In its engagement with the Pacific Alliance as a group, and in its bilateral relations with Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, the Government should raise and promote the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the Ruggie Principles), particularly in the context of UK companies’ activities in the region. It should also be mindful of the need for sustainable, inclusive growth which engages with the concerns of indigenous groups. The UK should also continue in its bilateral engagement to support and help to strengthen the rule of law in these countries.
72.There is potential for the Commonwealth and the Pacific Alliance to work together. The UK, as the Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth and an observer to the Pacific Alliance, should seek opportunities to forge links between these networks.