The life of a DIT director general: “It’s all about people – but being a trade nerd helps”

A huge diversity of people and roles make up the modern civil service. Amanda Brooks works on trade negotiations which support economic growth and consumer choice

By Civil Service World

02 Aug 2022

Amanda Brooks – director general for trade negotiations, DIT, London

When and why did you join the civil service?

I joined the Cabinet Office as an EO, about nine months after leaving university – mostly because my mum had seen an advert and nagged me to apply. I thought I would just stay for a year or so while I worked out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I enjoyed the work so much, I’m still here!

How did you end up in your current role?

After the EU exit referendum, I volunteered/asked to move back to work on trade policy, which I had worked on earlier in my career. I’ve been in DIT ever since, working in a variety of different roles, from leading work on export licenses to being chief US negotiator. I’ve been DG for trade negotiations for the last year.

What do you do and how does it help citizens?

The UK has one of the largest trade negotiation programmes in the world, and we are currently negotiating agreements with India, Canada, Mexico and Greenland, negotiating our accession to the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, and preparing to negotiate with the Gulf Co-operation Council, Israel and Switzerland. Trade agreements help citizens in a number of different ways – from reducing the cost of products you buy, increasing the range of products to choose from, and providing businesses with easier ways to export and invest – which drives increased employment opportunities across the whole of the UK.

What has been the most interesting thing you’ve done in DIT so far?

In the last year, supporting the chief negotiators and their teams to conclude our first “from scratch” and world leading agreements with Australia and New Zealand was an incredible experience –  they did an amazing job. Personally, reaching agreement with the US on a long-standing dispute on support for large civil aircraft was pretty rewarding too.

How did your role change during the pandemic?

I changed role (more than once!) during the pandemic. I found it much harder to understand the dynamic of the team I was joining when I was working virtually than I do when I meet people face to face. And harder to get to know people too. I am enjoying hybrid working more! It also changed how all the team was negotiating with our counterparts – there were lots of benefits, but the time differences have been pretty brutal.

What are the most important skills or attributes someone would need to do your job well?

For me, this job is all about people – the team I’m working with in DIT and across government, those we are negotiating with and the businesses and citizens we are seeking to deliver benefits for. So, keeping focused on that is critical. Being a trade policy nerd is helpful too though!

This profile is part of a series looking at the huge diversity of people and roles that make up the modern civil service. Read more here

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