A London-based Indian-origin economics professor has been appointed to a new expert panel set up by the UK government to advise on the use of "cutting-edge" trade models and techniques as it moves towards clinching post-Brexit Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with countries. Dr Swati Dhingra, Assistant Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and a former alumni of the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, is part of the five-member panel set up by the Department for International Trade (DIT).
Dhingra's research focus is on globalisation and industrial policy and she has also been awarded the FIW Young Economist Award and the Chair Jacquemin Award by the European Trade Study Group for her work on firms and globalisation. "Her work has informed bodies such as the Parliamentary International Trade Committee, Confederation of Indian Industry (CBI), Treasury, Social Enterprise UK, Credit Suisse and Sunderland City Council," the DIT said.
The department said it uses trade modelling to identify the potential impacts of its trade agreements. Modelling supports decision-making and prioritisation in trade negotiations to get a better understanding of the areas of potential mutual benefit for all parties involved.
"The department is updating its modelling to reflect the modern economy and seismic changes we've seen over the past decade not least the impact of tech, rising protectionism and coronavirus," said UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss. "Deep and dynamic free trade deals are even more valuable when trade barriers elsewhere are high, and we want our economic assessments to reflect that. Better modelling will help us capture the full benefits of free trade agreements and strike British-shaped deals that suit our economy and deliver for the whole country," she said.
The new panel will advise the DIT's Chief Economist on how best to incorporate wider global economic developments including the impact of COVID-19 and increased protectionism into its economic and trade modelling. Trade policy modelling provides the tools for thinking through possible effects on the UK of changes in trade policy and in the world economy at large, said Professor Tony Venables, BP Professor of Economics at Oxford University and head of the expert panel.
The panel will provide DIT with analysis and recommendations on how best to use these tools to fully capture effects, while being evidence based and presenting findings in a comprehensible and transparent manner, he said. The government department noted that conventional assessments can often understate the benefits of innovation, trade in services and the longer-term trends reshaping the global economy and international trading system. Therefore, DIT has established the bespoke panel, which will take these factors into account and advise on how to reflect them in future trade models.
The DIT said it can build on the success of a recent trade agreement with Japan and ensure that trade negotiators have access to the most "robust analysis" which can support ongoing negotiations with the US, Australia, New Zealand and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) free trade area. It comes as the Brexit transition period comes to a close at the end of this year, with the UK able to strike trade deals free from the European Union (EU) rules from January 2021.
India is among the list of countries the UK hopes to strike an FTA with and talks remain ongoing to strike so-called "early harvest" deals ahead of a wider agreement. The new panel includes Professor Michael Plummer, Eni Professor of International Economics at the Bologna Institute for Policy Research at the Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe, Dr Graham Gudgin, Honorary Research Associate at the Centre for Business Research (CBR) in the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge and Dr Christine McDaniel, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The panellists are scheduled to hold meetings once a month over the next year.
It comes as the UK government said it is committed to seeking consultation in advance of launching trade negotiations, as well as publishing the DIT's negotiating objectives and a scoping assessment assessing the potential impact of a deal before beginning negotiations with a country for an FTA. The department said it will publish the impact assessments at the end of each negotiation besides the already released scoping assessments for its negotiations with the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, which are the first set of target countries for post-Brexit FTAs.