SOON after taking over as lord mayor last November, I had the honour of hosting the President of Colombia at Mansion House. In his thoughtful lecture, Juan Manuel Santos outlined the striking progress that his country, and Latin America more generally, has made in recent years – across governance, security and economic management.
He also taught me a maxim that I consider sums up the nature of global trade and economic growth: if we do well, you do well; and if you do well, we will do well.
This basic premise underscores our partnerships across the globe, particularly in Latin America, where I am currently leading a City business delegation. Having visited Mexico and Colombia, I am currently in Buenos Aires before leaving for Brazil. These countries have all taken great strides, even if each of the constituent parts of Latin America faces its own individual challenges.
Mexico, for example, has made major progress in improving its business environment – in turn facilitating the expansion of its family-owned companies. But to grow further, these companies will need access to international markets and international services.
The UK is ideally placed to provide the capital, technical expertise and management required. Our markets provide deep pools of liquidity and a truly global investor base, supported by the full range of professional services.
We want to see more Mexican companies join Fresnillo, the mining company, in taking advantage of listing in London. It was a positive sign that the Mexican President-elect was in the City last week, having lunch at Mansion House while I was ironically in Mexico City.
London listings could also benefit our Colombian counterparts. But another area where there is opportunity for closer cooperation is infrastructure development. Colombia’s new public-private partnership law draws on UK experience. Our firms are therefore ideally placed to deliver vital commercial expertise, and realise the country’s ambitious plans.
The City wants to be Colombia’s partner of choice in this area. Commitments have already been made to invest around $54bn (£33.6bn) in transport infrastructure and a similar amount in social infrastructure projects.
Our role as a world-leading financial centre is predicated on our partnerships across the globe. Despite recent events in parts of the banking sector, an overwhelming message from my business missions abroad is that London’s high standing remains undiminished.
There is an expectation that, where there are issues, London will sort them out. And this is what we are doing. In India, I was recently told by a senior business figure that “London is the only place I trust”. I have heard similar messages in Mexico and Colombia as well.
That can only be a good thing, seeing as we want to share in Latin America’s development. After all their success will be our success, and our success their success.
David Wootton is lord mayor of the City of London.