As the Lord Mayor of the City of London I am an ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services sector. In the summer of 2017 I visited both Mexico and Colombia where I met numerous business leaders and government representatives to explore how the ties between the United Kingdom, Colombia and Mexico could be strengthened. Accompanied by former Lord Mayor Sir Alan Yarrow, our conversations in Mexico and Colombia enhanced the strong relationship that had been established with the City in recent years, particularly following the State Visits to the UK by President Peña Nieto of Mexico in 2015 and President Santos of Colombia in 2016.
The economies of Colombia and Mexico are among the fastest growing in the western hemisphere. Following their rapid and transformative economic programmes over the last few decades, my visits confirmed that the City of London is well placed to support and sustain this, developing highly sophisticated regional financial centres of excellence within the Latin American region over the coming years.
In Mexico City I attended a dinner hosted by the UK’s Ambassador to discuss Green Finance. I was particularly impressed by the successful liberalisation of the energy sector to foreign participants, who will bring investment, training, and expertise to the country. With Mexico looking to invest billions of dollars in new infrastructure, from roads, to schools, to the exploitation of the oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, there was a strong interest in the City’s offering as a global financial hub with the capacity to help plan and finance these projects. On my last day I was able to witness the signing of the Green Bonds Investors’ Declaration to support further the growth of the green finance sector.
I also met with Finance Minister Meade, and Governor of the Central Bank, Dr Agustin Carstens, who is about to become head of the Bank of International Settlement in Basel. In our meetings we discussed their priorities for the financial services sector and the ways in which the City’s expertise can support these. One area where the UK can make an especially positive contribution is in Fintech, where we are a world leader in terms of capital and employment, and a strong interest was shown to develop this partnership to address Mexico’s development needs.
On the subject of cyber security, we met with DIT’s strategic stakeholders and partners from the business and security services. Following a positive discussion on the potential for collaboration between the City of London Police and the Mexican Federal Police, I am pleased to confirm further discussions to move this forward are now taking place. Provoked by the change of administration in the United States, in Mexico City I found that both business and government are looking to develop alternative commercial relationships with other parts of the world.
Following our successful and busy schedule in Mexico City, we then travelled to Cartagena where we attended Colombia’s annual banking convention. We explored the growth and opportunities of closer ties between the United Kingdom and Colombia with the business leaders and government representatives gathering there, including President Santos. I want to make sure that Colombia, with coasts in both the Pacific and the Caribbean, becomes a key South American partner of choice for British businesses expanding overseas, especially as we seek new international markers for commercial tie-ups post-Brexit.
Last year’s State Visit from President Santos brought our countries closer together and in his keynote address to the Convention the President called the City of London “a good friend of Colombia”. My visit reiterated that we are continuing to build on those strong foundations and drive an era of growth and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Last year’s State Visit from President Santos brought our countries closer together…”
The UK’s capabilities and strengths in the financial and professional services sector, particularly what it can offer as a source of capital, expertise and experience (especially in PPP finance, Green Finance, Fintech and education, training and qualifications) to both business and government in Colombia were discussed at length, especially relating to major Colombian infrastructure projects.
Colombia has some of the most highly-regarded financial regulators in the world and in our meetings there was a lot of agreement as to how UK regulators can cooperate actively with innovators and businesses to ensure that regulation is relevant and responsive to the needs of the industry. That is something to be proud of, but ensuring that new innovations in finance are both encouraged, as well as regulated responsibly, will also inevitably lead to some challenges.
My visits to both Mexico and Colombia were incredibly positive in fostering and emboldening the strong bilateral relationships between the UK, Mexico and Colombia. Numerous opportunities were identified, particularly within the financial and professional services sector across investment, FinTech and Green Finance. I look forward to strengthening our engagement with these prosperous economies in Latin America.