The UK’s efforts to shape its trading future continue apace with the launch of a new hub of expertise on the formulation of policies that foster inclusive trade.

The Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy (CITP), which has been launched in London today, is led by University of Sussex professors Alan Winters and Michael Gasiorek, and brings together researchers from all four UK nations – including from the University of Nottingham, the University of Strathclyde, Queen’s University Belfast, Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge – as well as several overseas institutions.

In addition to the universities involved, the centre comprises nine partners: Ernst & Young, Fieldfisher, 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, which includes the Department for International Trade.

Funded by an £8mn grant from the UK government-backed Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and additional support from its contributing universities, the CITP is “built on the precept that trade policy should be inclusive in both policy formulation and outcome”, according to its founders.

“International trade is of huge importance in the British economy, and now for the first time in 50 years the UK has to design its own trade policies,” says Winters. “The Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy was established by scholars from all over the country to provide independent analysis and evidence-based expertise on trade and trade policy, in order to help create a policy that is inclusive both in its formulation and its outcomes across UK society.”

The centre hosts scholars from economics, law, business management, politics and international relations. They will be tasked with conducting frontier disciplinary and interdisciplinary research into international trade and policy; applying research skills to pressing practical trade problems; and informing public debate across four dimensions of inclusiveness: geography, political domains, society and generations.

The CITP says it 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 while recognising the importance of the multilateral trading system and the UK’s role within it.

Promoting greater inclusiveness in trade has risen to the top of the agenda in recent years, after the Covid-19 pandemic laid bare inequalities in the multilateral trading system. By investigating the distributional consequences of trade policy – that is, who are the winners and losers – the CITP intends to inform the formulation of mitigating policies for those who find themselves on the losing side, be they industrial sectors or segments of society or even types of companies.

This is the latest trade research initiative from the UK as it seeks to position itself as a leader in global trade. Last month, the country launched the Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation, which aims to bring together initiatives and expertise from industry and government to scale up efforts to digitalise trade. That initiative includes the ICC Digital Standards Initiative (DSI), innovation company Plexal, the British Chambers of Commerce, Deloitte, the Institute of Export, the Department for International Trade, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, HM Revenue and Customs, and Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority.