16th July 2019 Guatemala City, Guatemala
A nation of shopkeepers: Britain and trade
A nation of shopkeepers? So, allegedly, the French Emperor Napoleon referred to Britain in the late 18thcentury. Many have portrayed it as an insult. Actually, it is a statement of fact – Britain drew its power – then and now – from the power of trade and commerce, not from the extent of its lands or the size of its population; our ability to sell to and buy goods and services from every corner of the world, and to invite the world to invest in our country. Today the UK is one of the world’s most open economies, the top destination for Foreign Direct Investment in Europe and remains a committed advocate of global free trade, at a time when protectionist tendencies are growing.
Here in Central America the UK has only recently started to develop an enhanced trading relationship. In the last 3-4 years our trade with the region has grown significantly: the UK exported £450m worth of goods and services to Central America in 2016 and imported £678m worth. With Guatemala our overall trade now sits at £108m with Guatemala exporting significantly more to us than we export to you. We don’t see that as a problem though, we see that as an opportunity and want to work with Guatemala, importers and exporters, to develop the trading relationship between our two countries.
In my time here as ambassador, I have had the pleasure to visit companies exporting to the UK (such as Planesa, Ron Zacapa), as well as support British products here in Guatemala (from cars to JCB earth-movers). What is clear to us is that trade has a key role in boosting prosperity and security.
Visiting Rum Zacapa plant
We have been working closely with countries of the region to ensure that trade between the UK and Central America can continue uninterrupted after the UK’s departure from the EU. We are confident that the UK-Central America Association Agreement between the UK and countries of the CA region (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama) will be signed soon.
This week sees the one-year anniversary of the launch of the British – Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce (BritCham). Membership is growing and I am constantly delighted (but not surprised) at the number of people and companies who want to develop commercial relationships with the UK. To mark the anniversary BritCham are organising a British Week in Oakland Mall to showcase some of the British products currently available in Guatemala and, I hope, to whet your appetite for more. Brands such as Landrover and Mini will be there, as will famous tipples of Johnnie Walker, British beers and much more. Do come along and sample some of the wares of those famous British shopkeepers.
Famous brands like Johnnie Walker will be present at British Week