International trade secretary Kemi Badenoch continues DIT strategy shift at committee hearing

Thu 1 Dec 2022
Posted by: Grace Thompson, Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Department for International Trade - Kemi Badenoch further pvitos

International trade secretary Kemi Badenoch has defended the UK government’s approach to trade deal negotiations, while continuing to signal a move away from her predecessors’ overall strategy on policy.

In an appearance before the International Trade Committee in Parliament yesterday (30 November), Badenoch stated firmly that her approach was “going to be different to previous Secretaries of State”.

Grace Thompson, public affairs adviser at the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT), commented that:

“Kemi Badenoch struck a determined tone with her statement at the start of yesterday’s International Trade Committee session. She is clearly keen to demonstrate her collaborative spirit, not only promising to keep up regular dialogue with the committee, but also emphasising the need for good interdepartmental relations across Whitehall in relation to trade policy issues.”

“At yesterday’s session, she emphasised her determination to look at international trade from a broader perspective, particularly in terms of exports and investment. This ties in more broadly with the view that she and the prime minister jointly take that depth should be prioritised over speed when signing future FTAs.”


Responding to a question from committee chair Angus Brendan MacNeil on where the Department for International Trade (DIT) could improve, Badenoch stressed the need for a new permanent secretary as soon as possible to help drive internal change.

A “dedicated permanent secretary” would be critical in ensuring that the department’s voice is heard across Whitehall, she said.

Crawford Falconer has been interim permanent secretary of the DIT since 17 October 2022.


The international trade head listed her imminent priorities as being to conclude the accession process to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, finalising the India trade deal and changing the DIT’s overall strategy.

Badenoch said:

“I would like us to move away from the DIT being seen as the Department for Free Trade Agreements and back to the Department for International Trade.”

“Leaving the EU meant that for the first time we had an independent trade policy, so of course getting the roll-over continuity agreements and new free trade agreements demonstrating that independent trade policy was critical, but at this point, using them and making sure that they are working and are more efficient, and so on, is going to be my approach.

“That is certainly something that I would like to see change.”

The Saffron Walden MP stated that trade deals need to be seen as more than just a “zero sum game”.

NZ Australia

Badenoch disagreed with fellow Conservative MP George Eustice’s recent comments that the Australia-UK trade deal was a bad one for Britain, whilst admitting that deadlines in trade deals could be unhelpful.

As covered previously by the Daily Update, former DEFRA secretary Eustice stated that the agreement was “not actually a very good deal for the UK” and that “the UK gave away far too much for far too little in return.”

Current prime minister Rishi Sunak has recently hinted he will slow down progress on the India trade deal, commenting that the UK “committed to a trade deal with India, but we need to get these things right.”