Crawford Falconer, the government’s chief trade negotiation adviser, has officially launched a cross-Whitehall international trade profession that spans 11 departments.
The Department for International Trade’s second permanent secretary will bring together heads of profession that have been appointed in 10 other departments to work together on building civil service trade capability as Britain leaves the European Union.
The New Zealand/ UK dual national was hired at DIT for his extensive experience in international trade negotiation, and tasked with building the civil service’s hitherto limited skills in that area. UK civil servants have always worked on trade policy but the EU has had direct responsibility for negotiating trade deals with the rest of the world.
DIT announced that the new profession would open up new roles and opportunities for those wishing to develop careers in international trade in the civil service. It will also provide “a world class training programme”.
“The recognition of international trade as one of government’s most important skills represents an important step forward in post-Brexit trade preparations,” said the department.
Falconer, head of the international trade profession, said: “As head of profession, it is my job to ensure that UK trade negotiators are ready to strike trade deals around the world and deliver the benefits of free trade to all parts of the country.
“Through the profession we are ensuring government attracts the best and brightest talent by not only offering trade professionals a clear route into working on trade policy, exports and investment at the centre of government but also nurturing their ability for the future through access to world-class training.”
The department has previously said it wants to prioritise building on the trade skills of existing civil servants over bringing in outside expertise. But it has said it will need to look to hire from outside Whitehall to assist with negotiating complex, multi-stakeholder trade deals.
Liam Fox, international development secretary, said: “By establishing the International Trade Profession, we have embedded the development of trade negotiation capability at the heart of the government’s agenda and taken another important step in getting UK trade policy Brexit-ready.”
The CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn also welcomed the appointment of the 10 new heads of international trade profession. She said trade between the UK and its partners was “a fundamental catalyst to job creation, productivity and prosperity”.