The UK’s £14bn aid budget is to be partially allocated to the Department for International Trade (DIT).
The DIT, led by international trade secretary Liam Fox, will spend the funds on helping developing countries with issues such as securing trade and foreign investment.
The government has legally committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid. Any money spend by the DIT will still fall within this target.
In an interview with the BBC, Fox said: “We want to bring development and trade closer together.
“Rather than having developing countries dependent on the largesse of rich countries, we want them able to get sustainable development and trade their way out of poverty, and one of the ways in which we can do that is to give them the skills that will attract the investment into their country… to develop some of those attributes that helped us get investment into the UK and helps them get investment on a stable basis.”
Labour’s shadow secretary of state for international development, Dan Carden, said the move amounted to “pinching aid money from the world’s poorest to prop up rich investors”.
“As the government desperately chase post-Brexit trade deals, they must rule out raiding the aid budget for anything other than fighting global poverty,” he added.
A DIT spokesperson said: “Trade plays a vital role in building stable economies and DIT is committed to supporting developing countries to attract foreign investment and build their trade capability. This ultimately helps create jobs and drive prosperity into local economies, and reduces reliance on aid in the longer term.
“DIT is building its capacity to be an aid spending department, ensuring we have the skills, people and processes in place to meet all aid requirements and generate maximum impact from our aid spending.”