OPENING SPEECH at the First Latin American Regional Conference – Brazil – 2008
Mr. Chairman, Your Worship the Mayor, members of the Diplomatic Corps, members of the Consular Corps, colleague Consuls from all over the world, colleague members of the Board of Directors of the World Federation of Consuls, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
This is undoubtedly one of the proudest moments in the history of the World Federation of Consuls.
I am deeply honoured to be here with you at the first ever FICAC Latin America Consular Conference. As President of the World Federation of Consuls, I am totally delighted to formally welcome each and every one of you to this most important Conference and to thank you for participating with us.
I am particularly pleased that His Worship the Mayor has been able to take time out of his busy schedule to share this historic moment with us.
We meet today in Recife, one of the most beautiful areas of the world famous Brazilian tourism industry, and in the warmth of Brazil’s traditional hospitality, which has already made us all feel welcome.
I wish first to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to the Hon. Lamartine Hollanda Jr., Dean of the Consular Corps of Brazil, a Director of the World Federation of Consuls, Chairman of the FICAC Latin America Regional Committee, President of this Conference, and his excellent Organizing Committee who have done superb work in organizing this historic Conference. We are deeply grateful to them.
The World Federation of Consuls was established in Copenhagen in October 1982. The Federation was born of the necessity to bring together Consular Associations and Corps to share experiences and coordinate efforts to enhance the effectiveness and the status of the Consul, the oldest institution serving international bilateral relations.
This Administration has been setting up Regional Committees in East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. We can now say, for the first time, that FICAC is truly a global network of Consular Corps and Associations, created to support and improve the status, legitimacy and effectiveness of all Consular Corps in all sending and receiving States.
Today, the role of the State is vastly different from that which it played for most of the 20th century. New and powerful actors have swept on to the international stage. Transnational corporations, aided by the forces of globalization, wield a vast influence on international decision making.
This evening, therefore, I would like to share some perspectives with you, on these key international developments.
- This Administration has changed our centres of influence to be more inclusive of the Americas, Asia and Africa as well as Europe, to reflect that new reality.
- Consular operations can no longer be confined to the issuance of travel documents and attention to the welfare of the Nationals of the countries that we represent, as globalization has altered the framework for bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
- The role of the Honorary Consul must be expanded to encompass the full range of economic, political and diplomatic relations. This expanded role is particularly important for developing countries and small States who cannot afford global deployment of their Foreign Service.
- It is in this context that Consular representatives must constantly update the theory and practice of the craft, as we must become more relevant to the global struggle for peace, security and sustainable development.
The development of trade and its promotion is one of the main functions of the Consul, and is also an integral part of the objectives of this Administration.
My initial research has shown that there are many trade agreements that have been signed and are dormant. Some of them have been signed twice and still remain inactive. We are currently in discussion with the European Union to see how we could partner with them in order to develop an international trade promotion programme, with an objective of turning these trade agreements into real business. We hope this year something positive will result from these discussions.
It is not sufficient for the process to remain solely in the hands of trade negotiators, political leaders and national or regional institutions. A wider cross section of stakeholders must become engaged in shaping the direction and content of international trade agreements.
A critically important component of the foundation of peace, democracy and development is economic growth. In today’s world economy, which is being transformed by a comprehensive process of advanced globalization, international trade is the engine of economic growth, and has assumed an increasingly prominent role in State to State relations.
As part of this process there has been renewed momentum for the conclusion of trade agreements whether at bilateral, regional or multilateral levels.
The World Federation of Consuls is potentially ideally suited to participate positively in trade promotion activity. There is therefore an urgent need to re-dimension our role to encompass trade promotion and advocacy.
Indeed Consular Corps have a comparative advantage in undertaking trade promotion because Consular Corps have a much broader geographic deployment and can therefore provide more extensive coverage than the Diplomatic Corps. This is particularly so for developing countries who are unable to afford diplomatic representation in all the locations where they have important economic interests.
The Consular Corps has a presence in all major cities, in the centres of business and commerce, whereas the Diplomatic Corps is concentrated in capital cities which, in several cases, are political rather than economic centres.
The Consular Corps include a high proportion of persons with considerable business expertise, and they are therefore ideally suited to trade promotion.
The members of the Consular Corps are more immersed in communities in ways in which Diplomats cannot be, and their knowledge of local conditions and local products can be useful in identifying niche markets, distribution networks and new tradable goods and services.
Consuls can be important conduits for information which can inform international trade negotiations and enhance the awareness and involvement of the public. We can make a meaningful contribution to the promotion of trade in this area, and I ask you all to give this matter serious consideration. The future lies in the development of fair trade in the region and in the world.
Over the next 3 days and nights of this Conference, we will consider a range of issues in our quest not only to strengthen the Federation, but also to enhance our role and effectiveness in these challenging times.
We look forward to insightful presentations, and a productive exchange of views. It is my sincere hope that this First Latin America Regional Conference will long be a compass for our future endeavors.
As you savour both the beauty of Brazil and the thoughts, formal and informal, of persons gathered from the 4 corners of the world, may I again say “Welcome to Brazil”. And in the words of the great Bob Marley; ONE LOVE.