New trade commissioners appointed for Europe, South Asia and China and Hong Kong

Tue 2 Jun 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News


Left to right: Alan Gemmell (South Asia), John Edwards (China and Hong Kong) and Richard Burn (Europe)

The Department for International Trade has announced the appointment of three new HM Trade Commissioners (HMTC) for Europe, South Asia and China and Hong Kong.

The appointments are:

  • Alan Gemmell, South Asia – previous CEO of the Commonwealth Enterprise & Investment Council
  • John Edwards, China and Hong Kong – currently the Consul-General in Shanghai
  • Richard Burn, Europe – the previous HMTC for China

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss described the new appointments as “great champions of British trade” who “bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to their new roles.”

“By attracting inward investment and supporting UK businesses, our HM Trade Commissioners will play a key part in delivering free trade agreements that benefits every part of the UK,” she said.


What does a HM Trade Commissioner do?

Trade commissioners are government officials who seek to attract inward investment from and champion a country’s goods and services to a particular overseas region, across all sectors.

In the UK, the HMTC roles were set up by former international trade secretary Dr Liam Fox in 2017 for nine geographic areas around the world in anticipation of the UK leaving the EU. 

According to DIT, "Each HMTC works with partners in DIT headquarters and overseas to develop and update a Regional Trade Plan which set out how each region will deliver upon all the department’s objectives overseas."

Key markets

Europe, South Asia and China and Hong Kong are already key markets for the UK.

  • Europe, despite Brexit, remains the UK’s largest export and import market. In 2018 UK exports to the EU were worth £291 billion, representing 45% of all UK exports; UK imports from the EU worth £357 billion, representing 53% of all UK imports (source: House of Commons of Library).
  • The UK traded £30bn god goods and services with South Asia - covering India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka -  in 2019, a 9.9% increase on 2018 (Source: Department for International Trade).
  • The UK and China and Hong Kong traded £104.6bn in 2019, a 16% increase on 2018 (Source: Department for International Trade).

The UK, having now left the EU, can independently negotiate trade deals with countries around the world. The government is currently in trade talks with the USA, Japan and the EU.