Today I’m blogging from Lima, Peru, where I’m participating in ‘commercial diplomacy’ and climate change workshops with other British diplomats and locally employed staff from across Latin America.
Commercial diplomacy, along with economic diplomacy, are part of the Foreign Office’s relatively new focus on prosperity, which principally means supporting economic recovery in the UK through promoting British exports, inward investment into the UK, and free trade.
Our prosperity work overseas also looks to mutual benefit and prosperity, both for the UK and for its traditional and emerging commercial partners. Commercial diplomacy involves assisting British companies to win business overseas, whilst economic diplomacy means analysing macroeconomic trends with a view to opportunities for the UK, and promoting improvements to overseas business environments.
In the commercial diplomacy workshop much of our focus was on how best we in British Embassies can promote the UK as a great place to do business, and offer support to British companies, working with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). UKTI has a wide network of local offices based inside British Embassies across the world, but in some countries, like El Salvador, the Foreign Office operates without UKTI.
This means that we work more closely with other embassies in the region to swap good ideas and organise joint commercial activities, like trade missions visiting several countries.
In many countries across Latin America from which there were participants in the workshop, including El Salvador, Peru, Chile, Venezuela and Uruguay, a shared challenge that we face is the lack of awareness of the business opportunities in these markets amongst British companies.
So a key part of our work involves spotting opportunities and sending information back to the UK. In most cases, UKTI can then offer more targeted support to British companies which want to enter these markets.
In El Salvador, where we don’t have a UKTI office, we have just recruited an Honorary Consul for prosperity. She now works part-time with the embassy to support our commercial work and to share contacts and market information with British companies interested in El Salvador.
As a Salvadorean who has worked in both the public and private sectors, she brings a great deal of extremely valuable experience and knowledge to the recently re-opened embassy.
For me, the most important conclusions from the workshop were the importance of working together, within and between embassies, with UKTI, and with chambers of commerce and British businesses, and the importance of creativity, innovation and good ideas.
So as we continue to refine and develop our strategies for supporting British businesses and promoting prosperity in the UK and in El Salvador, all ideas are welcome. If you would like to get in touch, feel free to post a comment here, or send us a message at email@example.com.