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Volume 538: debated on Tuesday 17 January 2012

6. What recent assessment he has made of the effect on bilateral relations with Brazil of that country having overtaken the UK as the sixth largest economy. (89810)

The continued rise and success of emerging powers like Brazil present a great opportunity for our bilateral relationship. This Government have already shifted resources there. The Foreign Secretary will be leaving this evening for a visit to Brazil. In November I opened a new consulate-general in Recife in Brazil’s fastest growing region.

With the world’s fifth largest population and sixth largest economy, Brazil is an important economic power and a key market for expanding British trade, so the Foreign Secretary’s visit is welcome. It is also an increasingly important diplomatic power, so what can the Government do to encourage Brazil to play a positive leadership role on global issues such as climate change, human rights and democracy?

That precise point will be central to the Foreign Secretary’s talks with the Brazilian Foreign Secretary in Brasilia tomorrow, but as an illustration of the seriousness with which we treat this relationship, let me tell the House that last year there were 14 ministerial visits to Brazil, whereas in the previous three years combined there were just 10 ministerial visits. So we are affording Brazil four times the amount of ministerial attention that the previous Government did.

Does my hon. Friend agree that our trade at £5.2 billion in 2010 offers scope for considerable increase? What more can his Department do, particularly through UK Trade & Investment, to forge better links with the Brazilians in order to increase that trade?

I agree with my hon. Friend’s point. The economies of Latin America and Asia are growing fast and becoming increasingly important, which is why the British Government are determined to double trade with Brazil in the lifetime of this Parliament and why we are expanding the network of diplomatic and trade staff across Brazil, including opening a new consulate-general in the north-east of the country in November.