A NORTH-EAST banknote maker is among 40 firms on a Government trade mission in Latin America. 

Following stinging criticism that David Cameron had snubbed the region's firms on last December's trip to China, the Government has included the likes of Gateshead-based banknote printer De La Rue on the three-day visit to Mexico and Columbia. 

Amec, which has its European engineering headquarters in Darlington, and Newcastle-founded architects Arup are also in the delegation, which is in Latin America until Wednesday.  

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"It is by forging greater ties with countries like these that we can rebuild our economy; find new export markets for British businesses, identify new opportunities, and sign new contracts, " said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is leading the mission.

“The UK took its eye off the Latin American ball, and as a result we’ve fallen behind many of our other European competitors. Mexico and Colombia are two economies where the British presence has been too small, too reticent and too modest for far too long. There is so much we can do to catch up, and we’re making progress."

The UK is the second largest investor in Colombia and the fifth largest in Mexico. But Mr Clegg reckoned there was room for improvement, setting the target of more than doubling bilateral trade and investment with Columbia by 2020 trade to £4bn. 

“The commercial and trading relationship between our nations is still a fraction of what it could be," he said.

“It’s been fashionable for a long time to talk about growth of major economies in Asia, but actually so much of new growth in the world economy will be in Latin America, in open, reforming economies such as Mexico and Colombia. Delegations and visits like this are important to the success of the relationship between Britain, Colombia and Mexico, and the long–term economic wellbeing to the UK for many years ahead.”