Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

#TradeUnwrapped launches

24th September 2020

This is a critical moment to talk about trade. We want to explore decisions being made about the UK’s new trading relationships and the impact they’ll have on our everyday lives. Today, we launch our new series of short papers and kitchen table conversations, #TradeUnwrapped, and we are asking you to join in. Let’s talk about what trade really means.



A briefing from our Deputy Director, Tom Burston

With #TradeUnwrapped, we are exploring the questions around a  new trade policy, one which supports UK businesses fairly  to succeed on a world stage and sees the UK taking a global leadership role in encouraging decisions which are good for the health and prosperity of people and planet. 


We are delighted to launch the series with two thought-provoking papers from trade experts  Professor Tim Benton, Professor Fiona Smith and David Henig.

In their paper Tim and Fiona explain how trade fundamentally reflects the values we live by in our society and how we can’t separate trade from our own domestic priorities. Their paper highlights how this moment in time is crucial for the UK, how we stand at a crossroads in our attempt to define ourselves as a country in terms of our relationship with the rest of the world, and how new trading relationships give us an opportunity to meet our commitments to others and to ourselves.

The paper explains the positives of trade, how it helps us improve the quality of products around the world through specialisation and to develop resilience in times of difficulty. But there is also a flipside. Trade drives increases in consumption on a planet with finite resources and through deep interconnectedness creates dependencies on other countries in a time of global instability. 

"In a world that’s increasingly unstable, if we off-shore important things like our food security and something goes wrong, then that’s quite a big risk to our resilience" - Professor Tim Benton

In his paper David Henig explains why trade policy decision-makers should take it seriously because they must navigate inconsistent rules, often diverging domestic interests and competing demands from other countries. 

David takes us through a fascinating exploration around trade rules through the lens of food trade and asks us to consider ‘chicken in a can’ to illustrate the complexities. At stake are vital issues of food sovereignty, animal welfare and even public morals as David uncovers why we must have clear policy goals in mind.

Finding a product disgusting is no basis for banning it.” - David Henig

This series explores trade and its relationship with our choices in the shops, our job opportunities, the way our countryside is managed and how we cope with climate change. Trade entwines itself in aspects of our lives every day.

Now, we want to hear your voices to understand more about how we feel about trade and its relationships to food, to land use, to health, to the environment, to climate change. 

What kinds of things do we want to bring into the country - and how much do we care about how they’re produced?  What trade-offs are we willing to make - on price, choice, jobs, impacts on nature and climate? How do we want to be seen on the world stage? As citizens, where are our red lines? Help us to understand and amplify the public mandate for a trade policy for the country we want to be.

Tom Burston
Deputy Director