As part of its work programme, PETRA has been tasked with developing an interdisciplinary research framework (or “manifesto”) on the intersection between trade and health and wellbeing. We developed plans for a series of intelligence-gathering workshops to hear views from researchers, the third sector, and policymakers from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. A sandpit exercise was planned for the end of June to sift the outcomes from these events and identify the research priorities. It sounded great and would have brought together people from a range of disciplines around the trade agenda who are not yet working together. Our launch event on 18 February revealed high levels of interest and enthusiasm for PETRA. There was a real excitement in getting started.

And then COVID-19 happened.

Leaving aside its yet-to-be-calculated effects on national and global economies, COVID-19 has already rewritten the rules of networking and engagement. Social distancing and do not travel rules are hardly compatible with holding face to face meetings. Our immediate stakeholders are having to make radical revisions to the way they work and we too have had to go back to the drawing board to work out how to fulfil our contract.

Our solution is to go for a parliamentary-style strategy and run an inquiry in place of the workshops we had planned for year one of PETRA . As the Institute for Government highlights, one of the strengths of the parliamentary select committee process is the ability to gather and reflect on the evidence base and reach a cross-party consensus. Since this seems to mirror PETRA’s aim of creating interdisciplinary research collaborations, we have decided to gather evidence to inform the development of a research priorities framework by virtual means. Our inquiry has three strands to it. We will be: 1) commissioning a set of position papers from both the third sector and researchers 2) inviting video presentations from academics and 3) opening a public call for evidence.

All three strands will run concurrently and the public call for evidence, is now being published. We are seeking a wide range of views supported by evidence on the issues of most importance to the issue of trade and health that need further research. In identifying which questions need answering, we will be considering how the economic, legal, environment/sustainable prosperity, and now COVID-19, aspects of trade and investment agreements impact on noncommunicable diseases. We are also interested to know what public opinion might be. For a full list of the questions please see our call for evidence document:

Now is the chance to have your say and we welcome your input. All that we ask is that you send us a Word document in a minimum font size of 11pt Arial that has:

  • a maximum of 3000 words
  • a summary
  • well-structured, numbered paragraphs for ease of reference.

Send your submissions to by 31 July 2020 at the latest.

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