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Latin America

Volume 557: debated on Tuesday 22 January 2013

11. What recent assessment he has made of the UK’s relations with countries in Latin America. (138341)

We are striving to broaden and deepen our relations in Latin America—after years of neglect, I have to say. There were 23 ministerial visits to the region in 2012. We have opened new posts in El Salvador and Recife, Brazil, and will do so in Paraguay this year. We will host the first UK-Brazil strategic dialogue in London on 4 February.

Now that the Falkland Islands Government have announced a date and wording for the referendum, what discussion have the Government had with Argentina and its South American neighbours about respecting the Falkland Islanders’ right of self-determination and the outcome of that referendum?

Of course, we regularly discuss with countries all around Latin America the importance of self-determination for the Falkland Islanders and our absolute commitment to that. I believe that one of the most effective impacts on public opinion and Governments in Latin America in recent months has been the fact that Falkland Islanders themselves have been going to many countries and explaining the history of their islands and their attachment to self-determination.

I note the excellent work of our ambassador and embassy in Chile. Does the Secretary of State agree that our relationship with Chile is particularly important, particularly when it comes to our situation with the Falklands and also Antarctica?

Yes, it is a very good and important relationship and we have built it up further. For instance, the UK is now the top destination for Chilean students receiving Government grants. The links between our countries are growing, and the Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire), is heading to Chile tomorrow.

We now come to topical questions. Demand always exceeds supply, so I remind colleagues that questions and answers should be very brief.