With the end of 2017 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2018 – and tell us what they cannot do Christmas without
What are you most proud of achieving in 2017?
I’m proud of the how the department has built itself up over the past year, from its four predecessor organisations (UK Trade & Investment, UK Export Finance, the Trade Policy Group and the "GREAT" campaign) into one coherent department with a shared vision and values, and growing from 2,500 people to a team of 3,600 over the year. The "One DIT" culture will be a crucial factor in our success, and we are putting collaboration and inclusion at the heart of everything we do.
As well as continuing to promote and finance international trade and investment (foreign direct investment into the UK reached a record high last year), we have also taken major steps forward in developing UK trade policy. We have set up 14 trade working groups with 21 countries to progress our trade and investment relationships, now and post-Brexit. In November we introduced the Trade Bill to parliament, which puts in place the systems needed for the UK to shape its own independent trade policy agenda for the first time in 40 years.
What was your most difficult decision in 2017?
The toughest decision I had to make was a personal one: deciding to move my family back to London from New York, where we had lived since 2015, to take on the role of permanent secretary for DIT. While the decision was difficult, every day I’m in this job I think how privileged I am to be working with this team, right at the heart of government, on an agenda that is so important for the country – so I know it was the right choice.
What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead?
As well as continuing to build our trade capabilities, progressing our trade and investment relationships, and pursuing our legislation, we’re also focusing on implementing our new Outward Direct Investment and Foreign Direct Investment strategies. We also have a new Exports Strategy to put exports at the heart of UK economic growth. We'll also continue to be a global champion for free trade, explaining the economic and social benefits trade can bring to people throughout the UK, and ensuring trade is underpinned by a fair, rules-based global trading system.
For you, no Christmas holiday is complete without...
Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, opening the Quality Streets before lunch, a super-competitive games tournament all afternoon (this year: Codenames), and a giant Lego kit to be finished.