New LSE commission to interrogate foreign economic policy decisions

Now, more than ever, thinking about Britain's future place within a fast changing world economy is vital.
- Michael Cox, LSE IDEAS Director
Canary_Wharf_sunrise  747 x 560

At this important point in Britain’s foreign policy history, a new LSE Economic Diplomacy Commission has been set up by LSE IDEAS, LSE’s foreign policy think tank, to help shape foreign economic policy decisions made by the British government.

Britain’s planned departure from the EU will see it establish trade and associated foreign investment policies, as well as negotiate its own free trade agreements (FTAs), for the first time in over four decades.

The Commission, which comprises some of the UK’s leading economists and foreign policy practitioners, will engage with a wide range of experts, policymakers and business figures over the next 18-24 months to formulate the principles that should underpin Britain’s future trade and investment policies.

Chair of the LSE Economic Diplomacy Commission, Professor Linda Yueh sets out the key foreign policy considerations for the government in a new LSE IDEAS Strategic Update, Refining Britain’s Economic Diplomacy.  

Economic diplomacy considerations highlighted in the report include:

  • Which principles should govern international trade and investment policies? For instance, will the government pursue free trade agreements in services that could open up aspects of the National Health Service?
  • Which economies should be the priority for trade agreements? Should the government prioritise deals with major economies such as the US and China or smaller countries? What combination of trade agreements with advanced economies versus emerging economies would be optimal both practically and strategically for Britain? 
  • Should the UK seek to influence international rules in other areas such as investment policy and trade in services? The UK has the highest services trade to GDP ratio among advanced economies. As a significant services trader, should it take up the mantle and aim to set international rules in areas such as services and investment policy?
  • What about digital trade? With Britain among the top ten digital economies in the world, should digital trade be a priority for policymakers?
  • How should new trade and investment policies fit with Britain’s broader foreign policy aims? Should aid be used to support Britain’s trade aims? What about trading with countries with poor human rights records?
  • What is the link between the UK’s foreign policy and the impact this has on British society? How will the government manage any backlash against globalisation? How should policymakers help those who have been left behind and address issues of redistribution across the country?
  • How can Britain promote its values, such as democracy and the rule of law, alongside its other interests on the world stage? Could the UK play a leading role in crafting universal standards around technology and digital trade or services?

Commenting, Chair of the LSE Diplomacy Commission, Professor Linda Yueh said: “This Commission is timely. Given the vast changes in the global economy of the 21st century and the challenges surrounding globalisation, how should the UK position itself in the world? The answer will be important not only for widespread economic prosperity but also to help ensure that the values of British society are promoted.”

Michael Cox, LSE IDEAS Director added: “Getting the past right is difficult enough: getting the future right nigh impossible. But now more than ever, thinking about Britain's future place within a fast changing world economy is vital.

“In order to help us think creatively in these unsettling times, LSE IDEAS has  established its own Economic Diplomacy Commission bringing together experts from the academic world,  policy makers and leading figures from the  private sector to ask the big questions and hopefully come up with answers that will address the issues thrown up by our challenging environment."

Behind the article

For a copy of the report, please visit:

The inaugural LSE Economic Diplomacy Commission meeting will take place in October. The Commissioners are:

Chair of the LSE Economic Diplomacy Commission – Professor Linda Yueh

A leading economist and Visiting Professor in LSE IDEAS who has advised governments and international organisations on foreign economic policy.

 LSE IDEAS Director – Professor Michael Cox

A leading scholar in foreign policy who initiated and served as a Commissioner on the previous LSE Diplomacy Commission.


Professor Christopher Coker, Director of LSE IDEAS

Professor Swati Dhingra, LSE Associate Professor of Economics

Sir Martin Donnelly, former and first Permanent Secretary of DIT

Professor Saul Estrin, LSE Professor of Management Economics

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chairman of the Sub-Committee on EU Financial Affairs

Professor Robert Falkner, LSE Associate Professor of IR and Research Director, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

Professor Stephen Machin, Director of LSE CEP and Professor of Economics

Lord Nick Macpherson, former Permanent Secretary, HM Treasury and LSE CEP Policy Committee Chairman

Guy Monson, Chief Investment Officer and a Managing Partner of Sarasin & Partners

Sir Richard Mottram, former Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office and Chairman of LSE IDEAS Advisory Board

Lord Charles Powell, former private secretary to PM Margaret Thatcher

Gideon Rachman, Chief Foreign Affairs columnist, FT, and LSE IDEAS Visiting Senior Fellow

Susan Scholefield, distinguished civil servant and LSE IDEAS Advisory Board member

Professor Leslie Vinjamuri, Head of US & the Americas Programme, Chatham House

Professor Dame Helen Wallace, former Foreign Secretary of the British Academy and former Professor in the European Institute of the LSE

Professor Stephen Woolcock, Head of LSE Trade Policy Unit

Evidence and timeline

By taking evidence over the next 18-24 months from across the country, the Commissioners will engage with a wide range of stakeholders to formulate the principles that should underpin Britain’s trade and investment policies.

The report of the Commission in 2021, following on the successful work of the previous LSE Diplomacy Commission, will seek to provide sound and practical guidance to help shape Britain’s policies in the 21st century.