The Department for International Trade has named experienced negotiator Crawford Falconer as second permanent secretary and chief trade advisor tasked with reaching agreements across the globe following Brexit.
Falconer, a New Zealand/UK dual-national, held a number of posts in New Zealand’s Foreign Office, including as the country’s ambassador to the World Trade Organisation and vice minister for international trade and foreign affairs. He is currently professor of global value chains and trade at the country’s Lincoln University.
As well as advising the government on reaching trade deals outside the European Union at the level of second permanent secretary, Falconer will also act as head of profession for trade negotiators and boost the civil service’s skills.
In particular, the department says Falconer is expected to support the establishment of a "world-class" trade negotiation function within the civil service, as well as making the department a "centre of excellence" for negotiation.
Announcing the appointment, international trade secretary Liam Fox said the appointment showed the government would seek to build an outward-looking Britain that is confident on the world stage.
“We’re attracting the very best global talent to DIT as an international economic department. Crawford brings extensive experience of trade negotiation and foreign affairs and will play a key leadership role, with ministers and the first permanent secretary as we further build our trade capability,” he said.
DIT permanent secretary Antonia Romeo added that Falconer brings a wealth of global trade expertise to the Department for International Trade from over 25 years of working on trade policy.
“International trade drives the prosperity of the UK and the world. As we build our relationships to create a more global Britain, Crawford will be central to our work to secure the best trade deals that deliver for businesses and consumers,” she said.
Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood added that Falconer would play a crucial role in building the Department for International Trade’s trade negotiation capability. The DIT highlighted that since the department’s formation in July 2016, its headcount had increased to a global workforce of over 3,000 people, while its trade policy group has quadrupled in size.
“I am delighted that we have been able to secure someone for this role with a long and distinguished track record in international trade negotiations,” said Heywood. “Crawford Falconer is an excellent addition to DIT’s senior team and I look forward to working with him.”
Falconer (left) said he was “delighted to join this hugely exciting new journey”. It will be top of the government’s agenda to turn the “enormous new opportunities” from Brexit into “win-win agreements with our trading partners around the globe”, he added.
“That will bring tangible new gains to us at home, and it will bring gains to those trading partners that join us. As the world’s fifth largest economic power, the UK will bring much needed leadership to the international trade agenda."
Responding to the appointment, Institute for Government programme director Jill Rutter said the decision to make the chief trade post the second permanent secretary meant it was designed to complement the permanent secretary role.
Falconer appears to have the CV the government needs for this role, Rutter said. “He has extensive trade experience in New Zealand and at the World Trade Organization (WTO) – and trade negotiation is an area which puts a premium on having been in the room,” she added. “New Zealand has conducted a successful strategic trade policy over the last 30 years and is one of the models the UK should look to.”
Over the weekend there were reports that some of the international talent the UK sought to lure was deterred by the salary on offer, Rutter highlighted. “We haven’t yet been told whether DIT had to make good on the offer to pay in excess of the Permanent Secretary’s salary in this case. But the government needed to be sure it didn’t make pay a barrier to getting the best candidate.”