Wednesday 2 November 2016 6:44 pm

UK signs landmark trade deals with Colombia including £20m bio research programme

The UK has marked the first state visit from a Colombian president with a pair of landmark trade deals set to back both exports and research in the Latin American Country.

The government yesterday revealed plans for £1bn in export finance to encourage investment in healthcare and energy, and the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has confirmed a £20m programme to fund bio research.

BEIS said the programme would go towards programmes responsible for developing medicines, fertilisers and pollution tackling products.

Theresa May also welcomed the visit and said the UK should become a "global champion of free trade" after Brexit, focusing on trading with fast-growing economies. She announced a new oil and gas partnership with Colombia ahead of the visit.

Read more: Latin American oil producers push back early meeting on output freeze

The deal was signed at the Natural History Museum today by climate change and industry minister Nick Hurd and Yaneth Giha, Director of the Colombian national research agency Colciencias.

It comes after trade secretary Liam Fox has vowed to dramatically boost trade with Colombia within a decade.

Speaking this morning, Fox said the UK's trade with Colombia was worth £1bn last year, but admitted that despite historically strong ties between the countries – the City of London helped finance Simon Bolivar's fight for Colombian independence – British business had failed to nurture that relationship effectively.

Read more: Fox hints at the end of the EU customs union

“We have fallen behind the likes of France, Germany and Spain in terms of trade with Colombia,” Fox said.

And hailing the Latin American state's recent progress towards peace, Fox said that by 2021, the UK should halve the gap in market share with that of France and Germany.

By 2026, he said, the UK should exceed its European partners in trading with Colombia.

“The ties between us are warm, but as we move forward into the future, it is the ties of commerce and trade that will nurture the bond of friendship and fuel our shared prosperity,” Fox said.