Antonia Romeo on competing in global trade and board games

Written by Civil Service World on 2 January 2020 in Feature

As 2020 approaches, senior figures from across government reflect on their highlights and challenges of 2019, look ahead to the next 12 months and share their favourite festive memories

Romeo was Monopoly champion. Photo: Holyrood

What was your highlight of 2019?

In July we celebrated our third birthday as a department. In that time, DIT has directly supported exports of goods and services worth £99bn, and created or safeguarded 230,000 jobs as a result of foreign direct investment projects directly supported by the department. We have also worked on opening up markets around the world, supported the rules-based international trading system, and developed our future trade policy. We have grown to 4,000 people working across the world to deliver the government’s trade agenda. That was a big moment for us as a department and a team.

Another highlight was when DIT moved up to 101st place in the Stonewall Workplace Equality index, representing an increase of 269 places over the past two years. This is a testament to great work in the department on diversity and inclusion, although there is still lots to do. On a personal level, I was delighted to be appointed as civil service gender champion, working with excellent gender champions across the civil service.

What has been the most significant change in your organisation this year?

In the past year, we’ve overhauled our systems and processes to ensure that our policies and delivery function are joined up from end to end, and that we are operating as “One DIT”. We have established regional trade plans, which dock in with new sector trade plans. These plans outline our trade policy, promotion and finance priorities and our work to support Global Britain around the world, and mean, for the first time, that we have a clear picture of which sectors are focusing on which markets in exports, investments and market access.

"The structure and nature of the global economy is shifting, with consequences for British businesses, and trade tensions are developing between some of our major trade partners"

What will be the biggest challenge of 2020 – and how are you preparing to meet it?

The nature of trade – what, how and with whom we trade – is changing. The structure and nature of the global economy is shifting, with consequences for British businesses, and trade tensions are developing between some of our major trade partners. As a result, the global business environment is becoming more challenging as international trade growth slows and worldwide investment contracts. Meanwhile, technological change is transforming trade flows and expanding global reach.

DIT has a significant role to play in ensuring that the UK shows leadership in championing free trade, influencing on the global stage by reducing trade barriers, opening up markets, upholding the rules-based system, and paving the way in new and emerging sectors.

Tell us a favourite festive memory from your youth...

Fiercely competitive board games all afternoon, only broken by the Queen’s speech on television. In 1988 I was Monopoly, Cluedo, Boggle and Trivial Pursuit champion. That was a great year.

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