The Department for International Trade has appointed the deputy head of the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit as HM trade commissioner for Asia Pacific.
Natalie Black, who DIT said was “instrumental” in delivering the government’s Industrial Strategy, joins the department as its penultimate trade commissioner.
DIT is expected to appoint its final HMTC, for Europe, in early July. Trade commissioners are new roles representing the UK in trade markets abroad and will feed intelligence from their regions into negotiations for post-Brexit trade deals.
Black has been deputy director of the Policy Unit, which is headed by political appointee James Marshall, since 2015. As well as helping to develop the Industrial Strategy – which included the proposal to establish a network of global trade commissioners – the senior Downing Street aide also worked on the National Cyber Security Strategy.
She joined No 10 from the Cabinet Office, where she was director at the Office for Cyber Security and Information Assurance. Before that she was chief of staff to the security director of London 2012 in the lead up to and during the Olympic Games.
Antonia Romeo, DIT’s permanent secretary, said the senior Downing Street aide’s experience working with businesses and overseas partners at the heart of government, especially in fast-growing sectors such as technology, would be a “major asset” for the department.
Her appointment followed “a competitive global recruitment process to attract the best of Whitehall and private sector talent to HM trade commissioner roles”, Romeo added.
Black will lead and coordinate the government’s trade and investment promotion and policy work in the Asia Pacific region, where trade of goods and services with the UK was worth more than £88bn in 2016.
She will help build on progress already made through trade working groups with Australia, New Zealand and Japan, the department said.
Black said: “I am excited to be joining DIT in this new role as HM trade commissioner for Asia Pacific. Stretching from Japan to New Zealand, and covering the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] economies, this is a vibrant, innovative region with immense opportunity for more collaboration and new partnerships.
“We have a fantastic opportunity to put the UK in prime position to benefit from the opening up of new markets, and to establish stronger trading links with trading partners such as Australia.”
International trade secretary Liam Fox also said Black would be a major asset to the department.
“She’ll lead the government's trade and investment promotion and policy work in a region rich with opportunity,” he said. “This appointment is a crucial step forward in building stronger trading links with exciting and diverse economies as we leave the European Union.”
The HMTCs – who cover Africa, Asia Pacific, China, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Network, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, North America, and South Asia – will work with the ambassadors, high commissioners, diplomatic network and other government colleagues based in countries in their regions.
With Black’s appointment, half of the HM trade commissioners announced so far have been women.