Former diplomat to chair trade watchdog, DIT announces

Written by Beckie Smith on 31 October 2018 in News
News

Sir David Wright appointed as chair designate, with Electoral Commission head Claire Bassett named as chief executive designate

The Department for International Trade has appointed the UK’s former ambassador to Japan and Korea as the inaugural chair of its post-Brexit trade watchdog, the UK Trade Remedies Authority.

Sir David Wright, the former chief executive of British Trade International – now UK Trade and Investment – will take up his post as chair designate in the coming months, DIT announced this week. He will be joined by Claire Bassett, head of the Electoral Commission and former chair of the Parole Board for England and Wales, as chief executive designate.

Wright “presents an outstanding profile in international and bilateral trade policy”, the department said.


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The Trade Remedies Authority will take over responsibility for tackling restrictive and uncompetitive practices affecting UK companies, which are currently dealt with at EU level, after Brexit.

It will provide a “safety net to protect domestic industries against injury caused by unfair trading practices such as dumping and subsidies, and unforeseen surges in imports”, according to the job advert for the chair role.

Where the TRA identifies fair trade issues, it will suggest measures to remedy harm caused to UK businesses, which can include imposing tariffs. The international trade secretary will make the final decision on which measures to impose.

“The TRA will support UK businesses in the international trading environment. This is something I’ve been doing throughout my career, both in government and in the private sector, and protecting British businesses and jobs from harmful or unfair trading practices will be my key priority,” Wright said.

Since retiring from British Trade International in 2002, Wright has held various business-oriented roles including vice-president of the China Britain Business Council, chair of the Korean British Business Council, and vice-chair of Barclays Capital, the investment arm of the banking group.

Bassett is stepping down from her position as chief executive of the Electoral Commission to lead the TRA after a three-year stint that has seen the regulator tussle with both the Conservative Party and pro-Brexit campaigns over electoral overspending.

Announcing the appointments, international trade secretary Liam Fox he had the “utmost confidence” in both Wright and Bassett. “I am certain they will do an excellent job in supporting UK businesses, ensuring that our trade with the world remains fair as well as free.”

In May, DIT announced the watchdog would be based in Reading in Berkshire. Earlier statements by trade minister Greg Hands suggest it could have around 100 staff members and an annual budget of £15-£20m.

The exact location of the authority’s headquarters has yet to be announced. Basing it in Reading is in line with a 2017 pledge by then-Cabinet Office minister Chris Skidmore that all of the new government bodies created as a result of Brexit would be based outside London. However, it jars with a Conservative Party commitment to relocate civil servants away from the South East of England.

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Beckie Smith
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Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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