A major new research centre on inclusive trade policy involving researchers from Strathclyde 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.

Interdisciplinary approach

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 is the first dedicated to trade policy to be funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and is built on the precept that trade policy should be inclusive in both policy formulation and outcome. It focuses on four dimensions of inclusiveness: geography, political domains, society and generations.

The Centre has researchers in all four UK nations, in five disciplines and at all stages of their careers.

As well as from Strathclyde the team is from the University of Nottingham, Queen’s University Belfast, Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge, as well as several overseas universities, to create the UK’s first interdisciplinary research centre in international trade with 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, 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.

The Strathclyde investigators are Professor Ian Wooton, Mairi Spowage, Dr Gioele Figus, Professor Peter McGregor and James Black, all from the department of Economics. 

Developing modelling

The research at Strathclyde will touch on all areas of the Centre’s research, but will focus on inter-regional competition for Foreign Direct investment, extending capability to model trade flows between the regions of the UK, and developing modelling on the sectors and regions of the UK that benefit from employment related to trade.

Mairi Spowage, who is also Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute in the Department, said: “We are delighted to be an integral part of this new centre, which will allow us to build on our existing expertise on trade theory and analysis with collaborators from across the UK and internationally.

“Our unrivalled links to policy makers at all levels of Government through the Fraser of Allander Institute will ensure that our first class research has significant policy impact. “

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.”

Innovative proposals

In addition to the universities, the Centre will also work with nine partners including Ernst & Young LLP , 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.

The Centre will also run a competition for funds for early and mid-career researchers who are not part of the Centre team but who offer innovative proposals within international trade policy, a key part of the  plan to build long-term capacity for trade policy development and analysis.