The UK's new international development strategy – trade has key role in foreign policy objectives

Tue 17 May 2022
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

uk aid

The UK is to refocus its overseas aid budget to ensure it focuses on specific foreign policies and economic growth in Britain.

Trade will be one of the levers used to deliver on foreign policy objectives, alongside development, diplomacy, investment, defence and intelligence, the government announced.

It said that it will use try to “rebalance the aid budget towards bilateral programmes” in order to give it “greater control on how money is spent allowing a focus on priorities and improve lives around the world”.

Four priorities

A white paper from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) outlines four priority areas:

  • delivering investment
  • supporting women and girls
  • providing humanitarian assistance
  • work on climate change, nature and global health

Development and foreign policy

“In an increasingly geopolitical world, we must use development as a key part of our foreign policy,” said foreign secretary Liz Truss. “Malign actors treat economics and development as a means of control, using patronage, investment and debt as a form of economic coercion and political power.”

According to the Guardian, the strategy is partly an attempt to counter growing Chinese influence overseas through policies such as its Belt and Road Initiative, which has channelled billions into other countries and brought them closer to Beijing.

Aid cut

The UK spends about £11.5bn each year on aid, after cutting the budget by £3bn last year, reports the BBC.

Almost 40% is spent through multilateral organisations such the UN, the World Bank, EU and other global bodies, but this will drop to 25% by 2025 under the new strategy.

The government has said that its new strategy will allow it to “focus funding on UK priorities and control exactly how taxpayers’ money is used to support these”.

It also states that the UK will bring its aid budget back up to 0.7% of gross national income “when the fiscal situation allows”. The chancellor cut it to 0.5% in 2020 to focus on domestic spending.


Sarah Champion, chair of the Commons international development committee, criticised the strategy as a “double whammy against the global poor”, saying it advocates aid for trade and diverting funds from international bodies such as the UN.

“Supporting the poorest in the world should not be conditional on a trade deal or agreeing to investment partnerships. The UK has rightly been hugely critical of China for such an approach, so I fail to see why we are following down the same road,” she said.