Welcome to the UK Trade Policy Observatory

Following the decision to leave the EU, the UK needs to reconfigure its trade policy, successfully navigating a path through a new international trade landscape. The UK Trade Policy Observatory aims to ensure that new trade policies are constructed in a manner that benefits all.

For over four decades, the EU has handled most elements of international trade policy on Britain’s behalf. Brexit changes all that and there is now an urgent need to debate and define the UK’s place in the international trading system and then to negotiate it with our partners. This requires expert analysis, commentary and inputs from people experienced in trade policy formation and practice.

The UK Trade Policy observatory (UKTPO), a partnership between the University of Sussex and Chatham House, is an independent expert group that:

1) Initiates, comments on and analyses trade policy proposals for the UK;

2) Trains British policymakers, negotiators and other interested parties through tailored training packages.

Created in June 2016, the UKTPO is committed to engaging with a wide variety of stakeholders to ensure that the UK’s international trading environment is reconstructed in a manner that benefits all in Britain and is fair to Britain, the EU and the world.

Latest Briefing Papers

Briefing Paper 72 - Preference utilisation in the TCA: How are we doing?

Find all our Briefing papers

Trade policy animated videos

Our videos help to explain the effects of Brexit.

The UK exports far more services than goods if all the different ways of trading services are considered. For example, some goods derive a substantial share of their value from services inputs such as research and development, logistics, distribution, branding and marketing. This video, produced by the UK Trade Policy Observatory, explains direct and indirect ways of trading services internationally, and looks at the implications for trade policy, particularly trade agreements.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a key element of climate change mitigation strategies. Yet, some countries worry that heavy industry might relocate because their climate regulation makes it too expensive to operate, leading to so-called carbon leakage. This video analyses the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism pros and cons in addressing carbon leakage, and suggests how further cooperation may be achieved to ensure climate change policy is effective.

Global supply chains have become increasingly complex over the past 50 years, leaving companies exposed to a series of risks, no better illustrated than by the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment and medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic. This video puts forward suggestions for companies on how to manage persistent shocks through diversification, end-to-end supply chain visibility and targeted government policies.

Gains from trade (part 2) looks at why trade results in winners and losers. Specialisation and the competition it creates in and between firms will mean some firms benefit whilst others struggle to adapt and / or compete. These firms may be forced to cut jobs or even close down and this, in turn, impacts on the workers and regions where those firms are located. But trade is only one factor that leads to winners and losers. Technology, for example, has had a significant impact. We show that various policies can help to mitigate the negative effects of trade on workers and regions and how these can be better than protectionism.

More trade explainers are available on our animations page:

  • Free ports fact-checked
  • Brexit: Where does it hurt?
  • Rolling over the EU’s Free Trade Agreements
  • The Single Market
  • Customs Union
  • UK trade with the EU

November 25th, 2016

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Share this article: 14 December 2022 Ruby Acquah and Mattia Di Ubaldo are Fellows of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Research Fellows in Economics at the University of Sussex Business School. This blog was originally published by Trade 4 Sustainable Development. The Role of Non-trade Provisions in PTA’s in Attaining the SDGs. Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) are being increasingly used as a tool to pursue various non-trade policy objectives such as the protection of human rights and labour rights, the promotion of environmental sustainability, and combating climate change.

December 14th, 2022

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Share this article: 7 December 2022 Emily Lydgate, Reader in Environmental Law at University of Sussex and Deputy Director of the UKTPO [1] Figures from the World Trade Organization suggest that the negotiation of new Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) peaked in 2008, and has since declined.[2] Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has disavowed FTAs. The UK emerged post-Brexit as an enthusiastic advocate, responsible for much of the 2020 outlying peak in WTO FTA notifications. However, even in the UK, the Trade Secretary recently said: ‘I would like us to move away from the DIT being seen as the Department for Free Trade Agreements and back to the Department for International Trade.’ Having created a so-called spaghetti bowl of FTAs, are the wealthy countries that have driven most FTA negotiations[3] finally running out of noodles?

December 7th, 2022

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Share this article: 27 October 2022 Camille Vallier is a Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Research Fellow in Trade and Sustainable Law at the School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex. This blog was originally published by Trade 4 Sustainable Development. After having defended a sustainable development approach to trade based on cooperation and dialogue for the past decade, the European Union (EU) announced in June 2022 its intention to tighten its approach. The recent Communication “The power of trade partnership: together for green and just economic growth” presents the EU’s new strategy, which, among other measures, plans to extend the general state to state dispute settlement mechanism to the TSD chapter and to include the possibility of trade sanctions for non-compliance with certain provisions of the TSD chapter. These new measures have been adopted in response to a long-lasting observation that the current system… Read More

October 27th, 2022

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