FCO means business

A trade expert has been appointed the most senior official at the Foreign Office, reinforcing Prime Minister David Cameron’s new emphasis on commercial diplomacy.

Simon Fraser takes up his appointment as permanent secretary at the end of August, having served as the top civil servant at the department for Business Innovation and Skills.

In accepting his appointment, Mr Fraser set out three clear priorities for his department: security, trade and consular support.

“In these tough times the Foreign Office has an even more crucial role to play in protecting British security, in strengthening the British economy and helping British business, and in supporting British people around the world,” he said.

In addition to his role at the trade ministry, Mr Fraser has had an impressive career at the Foreign Office, having served as Director General for Europe and Globalisation. Prior to that, from February 2004 to February 2008, he was Chief of Staff to European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson where he was closely involved in negotiation of the Doha Round and in formulating the EU’s external competitiveness policies. He also worked as Deputy Chief of Staff to Lord Brittan when he was Trade Commissioner.

Mr Fraser’s appointment comes on the back of Foreign Secretary William Hague’s speech to a gathering of British Ambassadors in which he emphasised that the reorientation of the FCO towards promoting British business may spare the department some deep spending cuts.

His words echoed those of Prime Minister David Cameron who, on his recent tour of important strategic and trading partners, has insisted that the Foreign Office become “more commercially minded”.

He also floated the idea of appointing business leaders as Ambassadors, which may cause unhappiness at the FCO, which prides itself on appointing professional ambassadors in all but a handful of posts.

Backing British business: the new FCO PUS Simon Fraser with Business Secretary Vince Cable