New expert panel established to support UK trade negotiations

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is convening five leading economic and trade experts in order to advise on how we develop and use cutting-edge new trade models and techniques. This is part of the Department’s efforts to maximise the benefits of free trade deals and enhance the UK’s trade negotiating ability.

The panel will advise DIT’s Chief Economist on how best to incorporate wider global economic developments – including the impact of COVID-19 and increased protectionism – into its economic and trade modelling.

As conventional assessments can often understate the benefits of innovation, trade in services and the longer-term trends reshaping the global economy and international trading system, DIT has instead established a bespoke panel which will take these factors into account and advise on how to reflect them in future trade models.

By establishing this expert panel now, DIT can build on the success of the recent agreement with Japan and ensure that trade negotiators have access to the most robust analysis which can support ongoing negotiations with the US, Australia, New Zealand and the CPTPP free trade area.

The Department’s panel of experts will be led by Professor Tony Venables, BP Professor of Economics at Oxford University.

The other members are:

  • Professor Michael Plummer, Eni Professor of International Economics at the Bologna Institute for Policy Research at The Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe
  • Dr Graham Gudgin, Honorary Research Associate at the Centre for Business Research (CBR) in the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge
  • Dr Christine McDaniel, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University
  • Dr Swati Dhingra, Assistant Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science

These experts have been carefully selected from around the world and they will draw from a range of experiences to advise on how key economic issues might affect trade.

Liz Truss, International Trade Secretary, said:

The department is updating its modelling to reflect the modern economy and seismic changes we’ve seen over the past decade – not least the impact of tech, rising protectionism and Coronavirus.

Deep and dynamic free trade deals are even more valuable when trade barriers elsewhere are high, and we want our economic assessments to reflect that.

Better modelling will help us capture the full benefits of free trade agreements and strike British-shaped deals that suit our economy and deliver for the whole country.

Professor Tony Venables, said:

Trade policy modelling provides the tools for thinking through possible effects on the UK of changes in trade policy and in the world economy at large.

The panel will provide DIT with analysis and recommendations on how best to use these tools to fully capture effects, while being evidence based and presenting findings in a comprehensible and transparent manner.


Meetings will take place once a month over the next year.

Chair of the External Panel – Professor Tony Venables CBE FBA

DIT has asked Professor Tony Venables to lead an external panel of experts to advise DIT’s Chief Economist. Tony Venables CBE FBA is Professor of Economics at Oxford University and is a Fellow of the Econometric Society, the Regional Science Association and the British Academy. Former positions include chief economist at the UK Department for International Development, professor at the London School of Economics, and research manager of the trade group in the World Bank. He has published extensively in the areas of international trade and spatial economics.

Panel Members:

Professor Michael Plummer

Michael Plummer has been Director of SAIS Europe since 2014. A SAIS Professor of International Economics since 2001 and the Eni Professor of Economics since 2008, he was Head of the Development Division of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris from 2010 to 2012. A former Fulbright Chair in Economics and Pew Fellow in International Affairs at Harvard University, he has been an Asian Development Bank (ADB) distinguished lecturer and team leader of projects for various organizations including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the United Nations, the OECD, the ADB, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. Professor Plummer has advised several governments on the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Dr Graham Gudgin

Graham Gudgin is Honorary Research Associate at the Centre For Business Research (CBR) at Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. He was Director of the ESRC’s Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre from 1985 to 1998, when he became Special Adviser to the First Minister in the NI Assembly until 2002. Prior to moving to Northern Ireland he was a member of the Cambridge Economic Policy Group (CEPG) under the late Wynne Godley, and Economics Fellow at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He is the author of a large number of books, reports and journal articles on regional economic growth in the UK and on the growth of small firms.

Dr Christine McDaniel

Christine McDaniel is a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center. Her research focuses on international trade, globalization, and intellectual property rights. She has held several positions in the US government, including Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Treasury Department and senior trade economist in the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and has worked in the economic offices of the US Department of Commerce, US Trade Representative, and US International Trade Commission. Daniel spent three years in Australia as deputy chief economist in Australia’s patent office. She has published in the areas of international trade, intellectual property, and empirical trade analysis and modelling.

Dr Swati Dhingra

Swati Dhingra is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science, researching globalisation and industrial policy. Swati was awarded the FIW Young Economist Award and the Chair Jacquemin Award by the European Trade Study Group for her work on firms and globalisation. Her work has informed bodies such as the Parliamentary International Trade Committee, CBI, Treasury, Social Enterprise UK, Credit Suisse and Sunderland City Council.

Using trade modelling to support DIT’s Free Trade Agreements

DIT uses trade modelling to identify the potential impacts of its trade agreements. Modelling supports decision-making and prioritisation in trade negotiations to get a better understanding of the areas of potential mutual benefit in which both we and our partner economies stand to gain.

The government has committed to seeking consultation in advance of launching DIT’s trade negotiations, as well as publishing DIT’s negotiating objectives and a scoping assessment assessing the potential impact of a deal before beginning negotiations with an country for an FTA. Drawing on insights from trade modelling, DIT recently published scoping assessments for its negotiations with the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. These presented the potential gains for the UK, including impacts on different regions and sectors, effects on different groups and on the environment of a potential FTA. DIT will also publish impact assessments at the end of each negotiation.

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