British Minister of State for Latin America Hugo Swire made his first official visit to Costa Rica on Monday, signaling the United Kingdom’s desire to re-engage with the region.
Swire characterized relations as positive between the two nations and said that the U.K. hopes to cooperate with Costa Rica in areas like education and renewable energy.
“My visit here is to show Costa Rica and surrounding countries that the British are here, we want to do business, we want to share out know-how, help in educational matters and we want to be friends,” Swire said during a press conference Monday afternoon.
“I’m pleased to say that our thinking on matters [that confront both countries] is closely aligned, and we look forward to working closely with this new government in the future,” Swire added.
The minister met with Costa Rican Foreign Trade Minister Alexander Mora, Public Works Minister Carlos Segnini, and Foreign Minister Manuel Antonio González, along with Vice President and Finance Minister Helio Fallas during his brief stay in Costa Rica.
The British minister highlighted public-private partnerships (PPP) as a way to leverage private sector involvement in public works projects. Swire proposed PPPs as a possible avenue to fund and manage public works projects, like highways or sewers, that Costa Rica desperately needs. Mismanagement of private concessions for public infrastructure projects was a key theme of Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís campaign.
Swire offered the U.K.’s experience attracting foreign investment as an example for Costa Rica. The minister said that predictability, anti-bribery rules, the rule of law, and separation of power were key to the U.K.’s ability to attract investment from abroad.
President Solís recently returned from a foreign investment tour of the United States.
The minister of state also visited the Rahab Foundation, a Costa Rican organization dedicated to stopping human trafficking that has received financial support from the U.K. Embassy in San José. The embassy recently worked with Rahab Foundation to publish a book of testimonials from human trafficking victims as part of its global initiative to combat human trafficking and the use of sexual violence as a weapon in war zones.
Swire travels to Guatemala on Wednesday and then to Colombia before returning to London.