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The UK Diplomatic Network Expands (more or less)

May 12, 2011

William Hague has announced some changes to the UK diplomatic network

We will strengthen our front-line staff in China by up to 50 officials and in India by 30, and will work to transform Britain’s relationship with their fastest growing cities and regions. We will also expand substantially our diplomatic strength in Brazil, Turkey, Mexico and Indonesia. We will add diplomatic staff in the following countries and places: Thailand, Burma, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Angola, Botswana, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines…

With those additional resources we will be able to open new British embassies, including in places where they had previously been closed. We will reopen the embassy in El Salvador, closed in 2003, as part of a major diplomatic advance in Latin America after years of retreat. We will open a new consulate general in Brazil at Recife, which will be one of approximately seven new consulates general that we will open in the emerging powers. We will open a new embassy in strategically important Kyrgyzstan, and another in July in the new nation of South Sudan

How is this being financed given the economic situation? Part of the answer is more money from the Treasury – the last government abolished the mechanism that protected the FCO budget against exchange rate fluctuations this is being restored. Part of the answer comes from cost saving measures within the FCO and part comes from further reductions in the diplomatic network in Europe. Hague also points to savings from promises of reductions in the size of the embassies in Baghdad and Kabul.

These changes are very much in line with the strategy that Hague has set out since coming into office.  He seems to take the view that under the last government especially under David Miliband bought too heavily into the mantra of ‘global solutions for global problems’ and neglected bilateral relations.  Hague’s line is that 1)stronger bilateral relations with key allies and rising powers are important in themselves and 2)are a source of influence in bilateral contexts.

The statement and the debate that follows start about halfway done this page. For background Chris Bryant was a junior FCO minster in the Labour government and Jack Straw was the Labour Foreign Secretary before David Miliband – who he seems to be having a dig at.

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