David Cameron buoyed by Brazil trade trip


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Indy Politics

Prime Minister David Cameron returned to Britain today at the end of a two-day visit to Brazil to promote British trade.

On the final day of his whistlestop tour Mr Cameron said there were "good signs" that Britain's economy was finally rebalancing in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Following the success of the London Olympics, Mr Cameron said the "British brand" had never been stronger overseas.

He also gave his strongest indication yet that he may call for a referendum on EU membership if he is returned to power after the next general election.

Mr Cameron said there would be an opportunity for the British people to give "fresh consent" to UK membership of the European Union.

Speaking in a round of TV interviews during his visit to Brazil, the PM said: "I don't think it is in Britain's interests to leave the EU but I do think what it is increasingly becoming the time for is a new settlement between Britain and Europe, and I think that new settlement will require fresh consent."

He added: " I argue for Britain's membership because I want to be able to say to countries like Brazil 'Come to Britain and you can sell to the 320 million consumers across Europe'."

The Prime Minister also struck a determinedly upbeat note about the UK's economic prospects, with exports to countries like Brazil picking up again.

"In the last two years we've seen a million net new jobs in the private sector. That shows our economy is rebalancing," he said.

"For too many years, the state was too big and the private sector was too small. We were too reliant on financial services; we weren't making enough, we weren't exporting enough, we weren't selling enough.

"That is changing. Businesses are starting up in Britain at a record rate. We need to get behind that and encourage that and that's what I do as Prime Minister."

Asked if he thought the economy had now turned the corner, Mr Cameron said: "I'm not a forecaster; it's not for me to say that.

"But I think what is happening is the rebalancing I'm talking about; that's happening. The private sector is growing the number of jobs, the number of people employed. "

Mr Cameron said the London Olympics provided a showcase of what the country was capable of achieving.

"The British brand has never been stronger. We put on an incredible show in London in 2012, that was a fantastic advertisement for modern Britain and all that we can achieve," he said.

The visit to Brazil - the economic powerhouse of South America - was intended to "bang the drum" for British business and Mr Cameron said it had succeeded in creating or safeguarding 3,000 jobs in the UK.

"I've always been determined, since becoming Prime Minister, to link Britain to the fastest growing emerging economies of the world," he said.

"I think it's an important part of my job to bash down those doors, to help those deals be done, because it means jobs back at home."

Mr Cameron also sounded a warning to Brazil's neighbour Argentina, insisting it must respect the outcome of next year's referendum by Falkland Islanders on their future.

"I think the Argentinians have got to understand that the Falkland Islanders are the ones who should determine their own future," he said.

"If they understand that, there's no reason why Britain and Argentina can't have perfectly cordial and sensible relations."

Mr Cameron literally handed over the Olympic baton from London to 2016 hosts Rio de Janeiro when he held talks with president Dilma Rousseff, presenting her with one of the actual relay batons used at the 2012 Games.

And he announced that Ms Rousseff has agreed to hold a summit in Rio in November where Britain can share its expertise on staging the Games.

Ms Rousseff hailed the "brilliantly organised" London Olympics and said that Mr Cameron's visit reflected "a common shared willingness to draw closer ties and a more dynamic bilateral co-operation" between the UK and Brazil.

But she also voiced a difference with the UK Government on the need for state investment to stimulate the world economy into recovery.

"I stressed the importance of expanding efforts with a view to improving the conditions that will prove conducive to a recovery of the international economy, not only as regards developed countries but also as regards emerging countries," said the socialist president.

"I have told the Prime Minister that Brazil has done its share in efforts to improve the recovery of the world economy by means of stimuli to jobs and growth."

The Prime Minister was joined by some of Team GB's Olympic heroes during a visit to an inspirational sporting project set up by a British boxer in the heart of the favela slums of Rio de Janeiro.

Young people at the Luta Pela Paz (LPP) - Fight for Peace - project had the opportunity to pit themselves against gold-medallist boxers Anthony Joshua and Nicola Adams and silver-winning judo star Gemma Gibbons and pick up some tips from the Olympic stars.

Mr Cameron described the project, set up by Londoner Luke Dowdney 12 years ago, as "incredible" and said it was an example of how sport can be used to help children from difficult backgrounds make something of their lives.

Some of the youngsters told him how the project had given them a chance to get an education and keep out of the hands of the drug gangs whose feuds are a big factor in the thousands of gun deaths in Rio each year.

Mr Dowdney, 39, said: "I boxed as an amateur when I was younger and I saw that boxing was a brilliant way to access young people who were getting into violence and drug trafficking and weren't going to school.

"At the time we set up there were 7,000 gun deaths a year in Rio state. That's gone down to 4,500 but it's still extremely high - mostly to do with drugs.

"The idea is to use boxing to get the young people in and then we also give them job training, youth leadership and mentoring."

The centre has already produced two national champions and hopes are high to get members into the Brazilian team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Success in Rio led to LPP setting up a boxing academy in east London in 2008, which has already helped 2,000 youngsters, said Mr Dowdney.