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A major new research centre on inclusive trade policy is to launch in early 2022. The Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy aims to be a centre of excellence for innovative trade policy research.

The UK has experienced a huge change in trade policy. Having left the EU, it is in the process of devising its own trade policy, one that will shape economic and welfare outcomes in all corners of the United Kingdom for generations.

At the same time, international trade is changing rapidly and becoming more complex with the world trading system facing major challenges such as COVID-19, trade wars, disruptive digital technology and climate change. Formulating an effective trade policy that delivers something for all parts of society in such circumstances requires an evidence-based interdisciplinary approach, which the Centre aims to provide.

The Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy, the first centre dedicated to trade policy to be funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), is built on the precept that trade policy should be inclusive in both policy formulation and outcome and focuses on four dimensions of inclusiveness: geography, political domains, society and generations. In addition, the Centre itself is inclusive with researchers in all four UK nations, in five disciplines and at all stages of their careers, and with a commitment to hear the voices of all parts of UK society.

In addition to the University of Sussex, the Centre brings together researchers from all four UK nations – including from the University of Nottingham, the University of Strathclyde, Queen’s University Belfast, Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge – and several overseas universities to create the UK’s first interdisciplinary research centre in international trade. The team comprises scholars from economics, law, business management, politics and international relations.

Led by Professors L. Alan Winters and Michael Gasiorek at the University of Sussex Business School with Giovanni Facchini of the University of Nottingham as deputy director, the Centre is supported by an £8 million grant from the ESRC and by funding from its contributing universities. It is one of six new national centres funded by the ESRC designed to tackle urgent social and economic issues and provide robust research evidence to support government decision making.

Professor Winters, Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex Business School, said:

International trade accounts for nearly a third of UK output and a third of what it consumes. Our research suggests that perhaps 6.5 million jobs are linked directly or indirectly to exporting. The country needs a ‘go-to’ location, both intellectually and for policy formulation. By bringing a diverse group of excellent researchers together, the Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy aims to equip the UK with the capability to formulate and implement a trade policy tailored to the needs of the whole of the UK.

Professor Winters discusses the concept of inclusive trade in the latest Trade Bites podcast.

In addition to the universities, the Centre will work with nine partners including Ernst & Young LLP (EY), Fieldfisher LLP, the International Trade Group of the Professional and Business Services Council, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Trade Justice Movement and trade officials in all four UK administrations. It will undertake consultation and societal deliberation via citizen’s juries, to ensure that its programme is relevant to the needs of UK business, society and policymakers.

Professor Facchini, Professor of Economics at the University of Nottingham, said:

This new Centre will also undertake an inclusive range of activities – from ground-breaking research to novel data collection, high-level training and deep engagement with policy actors.

In particular, the Centre’s objectives include:

Professor Gasiorek, Centre co-director and Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex, said:

Our aim is to help to equip the UK with an effective and equitable trade policy. The Centre will build permanent capacity by developing a community of scholars and practitioners with the knowledge, skills and mutual understanding to develop robust trade policy in a changing world. Its work will benefit the whole of UK society, enhancing environmental sustainability and social equity.

Dr Emily Lydgate, Reader in Environmental Law and part of the management team for the Centre, leading the research path on ‘Negotiating a Turbulent World’ adds:

As an interdisciplinary research centre engaging with policy actors, we will provide both quantitative and qualitative analysis. For example, our economists will identify the impact of trade policies and the lawyers and political scientists will analyse implementation and governance. This provides a deep understanding that will enable policymakers to consider not just which policy, but why and how and ultimately, for who.

Professor Keith Jones, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research & Enterprise at the University of Sussex, said:

I am delighted that the ESRC has awarded funding for a second ESRC centre based in the University of Sussex Business School following on from the success of the Digit Centre which launched two years ago. The new Centre fits perfectly into our strategic plans, exemplifying research with impact in making research accessible in order to solve the grand issues of our time, and building on strengths in enhancing and building upon Sussex’s long-held reputation for specialism and expertise in international trade

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