DIT names three new trade commissioners

Appointees will aim to increase trade between the UK and South Asia, China and Hong Kong and Europe


Photo: WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto/PA Images

International trace secretary Liz Truss has appointed three trade commissioners who will champion trade between the UK and Europe, South Asia and China and Hong Kong.

The chief executive of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, Alan Gemmell, has been named HM trade commissioner for South Asia. He succeeds Crispin Simon, who was also the British deputy commissioner in Mumbai, who left government in April.

The British consul-general in Shanghai, John Edwards, has been named HMTC for China and Hong Kong, replacing Richard Burn.


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Burn has moved from the China post to a temporary appointment as HMTC Europe. The post was vacated last month when Andrew Mitchell became a director general at DIT after nearly two years in the role.

DIT permanent secretary Antonia Romeo said the three commissioners "all have proven expertise and experience in supporting British businesses to export and grow internationally, and attracting inward investment into the UK".

"At this time, this work is more important than ever,” she said.

The three appointees are part of a network of nine trade commissioners set up in 2018 to lead new regional overseas posts. They work with UK ambassadors and high commissioners, diplomats and civil servants in the nine regions in an effort to promote trade with the UK.

Speaking to CSW last year, Romeo said the HMTCs would be responsible for regional trade plans "that include essentially all trade investment and trade policy for that region".

“Those are essentially plans for markets, and they dock in with sector plans, which we now have are across all the main sectors in which we operate. So we have a really good picture of which sectors, which markets, are focusing on exports, where you are focusing on investment [and], where are you focusing on deepening market access," she said.

Trade in goods and services between the UK and South Asian countries was worth £30bn in 2019, and with China and Hong Kong was worth £104.6bn. Gemmell and Edwards will work to increase trade further in these regions.

As well as encouraging more trade with Europe, Burn will support the transition to a new trading relationship with European countries after the post-Brexit transition period ends.

“All European countries will remain critically important trading partners for the UK, as we agree a new trading relationship with the EU," he said.

“The mission of DIT across the Europe region will be to help British businesses succeed in the new trading environment and to build an ambitious level of inward investment.”

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