By Enrique Rubio
London, Oct 24 (EFE).- The United Kingdom’s national conversation overlooks Latin America more than any other world region, not only on a political level but also when it comes to business and the media, which often depicts it in a negative light.
This is the blunt analysis of Jeremy Browne, the new chief executive of Canning House, the British debate and research forum for current affairs in Latin America.
“I think Britain does have a global disposition and needs to have a global disposition,” he tells Efe in an interview.
“But the part of the world which is most neglected in the British domestic conversation, in my view, is Latin America. And that’s not just government, it is government, and parliament, but it’s also business and the media, and other manifestations of national life.”
The former Liberal Democrat MP and minister for Europe and the Americas believes this is underpinned to a considerable extent by the negative prism through which Latin America is portrayed in the British media.
“The conversation is about corruption, violence, drug smuggling,” he says. “Now, obviously, negative issues have some news value. And clearly there’s coverage in a negative sense about places all over the world.
“But nevertheless, that gives, in our view, an unbalanced view of the opportunities in Latin America, not that those aren’t real issues, because they are real issues about wealth inequalities or about violence, murder rates (…). Those are real issues. I don’t think we should pretend they aren’t. But they’re not the whole picture.”
Added to his political background, Browne has experience in the City of London, the UK’s finance hub. Here, he noticed that traders boasted knowledge of China and Asia, but less so Latin America.
While he understands that the UK will always have certain international priorities, his mission at Canning House is to “bang the drum” for Latin America.
“There are areas of the relationship that are relevant to Britain, that we could be doing more in that we could be capitalizing on,” he says.
Canning House was founded in 1943 as World War II raged on and takes its name from George Canning, a 19th century English politician who as foreign secretary contributed to independence movements in Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Latin America.
Interestingly, Canning was also the UK’s shortest serving prime minister (119 days, until his death in 1827) in history, until last week, when Liz Truss announced her resignation just 45 days into the job, setting a new record.
Browne acknowledges that 80 years of history has brought about vast changes in the world, but insists that the central purpose of Canning House remains the same.
“But Britain as a sort of, you know, G7 country, I think we’re the fifth sixth biggest economy in the world, still, depending on how you measure it, but we’re roughly that size. As a trading partner, for most Latin American countries, we are sort of 14, 15, 16, so we punch below our weight commercially, in terms of the amount of business we do with Latin American countries,” he says.
“So there is a shortfall there.” EFE