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Consulate General (Recife)

Volume 536: debated on Friday 25 November 2011

I wish to update the House on recent changes to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s overseas network. The Foreign Secretary said in the House on 11 May, Official Report, column 1165, that there will be no strategic shrinkage of Britain’s diplomatic influence overseas. He announced plans for the opening of up to six new embassies and seven new consulates general in emerging powers, including in Recife, Brazil. We are further strengthening our network by sending more diplomats to a total of 22 countries. The Foreign Secretary made clear in a speech in London on 8 September that he intends to strengthen the long-term capability and international effectiveness of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and to improve our country’s capacity to pursue effective foreign policy for decades to come.

So I am pleased to confirm to Parliament the inauguration on 28 November of a British consulate general in Recife in north-east Brazil. The consulate general will open up opportunities for Britain in this gateway city to the dynamic north-east of the country. There are existing British interests in the region’s petrochemical industry, and growing co-operation in education and culture. An expanded presence on the ground will enable Britain to increase co-operation in a range of areas.

North-east Brazil is currently the most economically dynamic region in the country. Pernambuco State, of which Recife is the capital, is leading the regional charge, with 8.4% GDP growth in 2010. The whole region has a population of 50 million. Over the last eight years north-east Brazil has undergone an intensive economic diversification process. To sustain growth, the region needs to invest heavily in infrastructure and other areas where the UK can offer expertise.

The United Kingdom first had a diplomatic presence in Recife as early as 1808. The consulate general will be a considerable upgrade from the small consulate and British Council office in the city and is part of our conscious diplomatic advance in Latin America. We are putting more staff on the ground to expand co-operation on trade and investment, science and innovation and cultural links, as well as to strengthen our consular service in Brazil.

As the Foreign Secretary said in the House on 11 May, the strength of our embassy network is a signal to the world of our engagement and commitment to international peace and security. By strengthening Britain's diplomatic network in Brazil, we will ensure that the UK has the necessary reach and capacity to respond quickly and effectively when British companies need our assistance or British nationals are in danger. The extension and strengthening of our global diplomatic network, with staff who have the necessary abilities and diplomatic skills, are key objectives of this Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have made funding these goals a priority.