Trade has become a new key focus area of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) after it launched a new policy-making board to define its strategic objectives on trade and investment policy.

The Trade and Investment Council, which will comprise 25 senior executives from British companies of all sizes and sectors, as well as key foreign investors, will define the official stance on trade policies on behalf of the 190,000 UK businesses that the CBI represents.

The CBI says in a statement that the new council will work with ministers and officials at the department for international trade (DIT) and the wider government as the UK seeks to strengthen trading relationships around the world. Katherine Bennett, senior vice president of Airbus, will act as chair.

The hope is that it will “improve the UK’s export performance and British investment in international markets” and encourage more companies to take advantage of “the growing opportunities” for British goods and services, both in Europe and around the world, explains the CBI’s director general Carolyn Fairbairn.

It will become the CBI’s latest standing committee, alongside others such as the Infrastructure Council and the Financial Services Council. All of these report to the Chairs’ Committee, which is the ultimate decision-making body on CBI policy.

Commenting on the launch, the UK’s minister for international trade Liam Fox says he is looking forward to “working closely with the CBI to make the case for Britain’s role in the global world”, citing the £23.5bn (7.4%) rise in UK goods exports year-on-year this April.

While this is good news for British exporters and the economy as a whole, the figures are not all rosy: in fact, according to the same Office of National Statistic report which Fox cites, the overall trade in goods deficit worsened in the 12 months to April 2018, widening by £3.2bn as a result of rising imports.