Accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), announced on 31 March 2023, delivers on a post-Brexit agenda for a modern, free-trading global Britain. The UK's membership represents the future of our global trade, partnering with Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand, and emerging markets such as Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam. It will add another like-minded partner and strong voice to this powerful alliance, taking the trade bloc’s GDP to £11 trillion. It will give UK businesses tariff-free access on over 99 per cent of goods to a market of around 500 million customers. The partnership will also provide new opportunities for tech, data and the services sector supporting UK businesses and jobs.
I welcome that negotiations have substantially concluded to accede the UK to the CPTPP. The next step in the accession process will be a legal review of the agreement text. This will be followed by formal signature of the agreement. After this, the Department for Business and Trade will commission the Trade and Agriculture Commission to prepare its advice on the impact of the agreement on plant and animal life. The agreement text will then be formally laid in Parliament.
The Government has taken the time to get this deal right, and would never allow the UK's high standards to be compromised. Negotiations ensured protections on healthcare, the environment, animal welfare and food. As a major economy and strong advocate of free trade, the UK will support the trade bloc to shape the high standards of global trade, particularly in the face of increased protectionism. I am assured that, as a signatory to the CPTPP, the UK would crucially not be required to cede control over its laws, border or money.
Ministers have struck a balanced deal which is good for UK food and agriculture. Joining the CPTPP will open up a whole new market for our exporters to sell their products to some of the Americas and Asia-Pacific. As the President of the National Farmers' Union states, the deal gets "more fantastic British food on plates overseas." Further, the UK has agreed to reduce import tariffs in a manner proportionate to the market access that we have received in return. Appropriate protections for UK producers have also been maintained where needed and agreed permanent annual limits on the volume of the most sensitive agricultural goods that can be exported to the UK.
The CPTPP is consistent with the UK’s existing approach to quality controls and does not compromise on food quality or animal welfare standards. The agreement includes comprehensive chapters for environmental protections.
The Government is absolutely clear that in all trade negotiations, the NHS and the services it provides are off the table. Ministers will continue to ensure that decisions about public services are made by the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations, not by our trade partners. This has always been the case in our trade agreements and no future trade agreement will alter that.
The CPTPP will allow the UK to maintain its high standards of data. I am assured that accession will not have an impact on the rights of UK data subjects. I understand that under UK law, personal data cannot be sent outside of the UK unless the conditions for doing so are met in accordance with existing legislation. Additional tools available for businesses for the international transfer of personal data ensure that data protection standards are not undermined.
Joining CPTPP will, however, address unjustified barriers to data flows, such as unnecessary data localisation, while ensuring the UK maintains high standards of protection for individuals’ personal data. Modern rules on data would support the UK’s high-growth tech sector and enable greater access to financial and professional services markets.
While the Government has no plans to hold referendums on joining new trade blocs including the CPTPP, I will pass on the concerns raised to my ministerial colleagues in the Department for Business and Trade.
The Government is committed to going further than ever before to clamp down on illegal deforestation and protect forests, through a package of measures that will ensure greater resilience, traceability and sustainability are built into the UK’s supply chains. Provisions have been introduced through the Environment Act 2021 to make it illegal for larger businesses operating in the UK to use key commodities that have been grown on land that is illegally occupied or used.
The UK continues to take a leading role working with global partners to halt forest loss. Due diligence legislation will help the UK achieve the commitment enshrined in the Glasgow Leaders Declaration signed by 141 global leaders at COP26 to work collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation.
Finally, the Government is committed to supporting sustainable palm oil production, import and use. Oil palm is a very efficient crop, producing more oil per hectare than other vegetable oil crops. I understand that substitution of other oils (such as soybean, rapeseed, sunflower), which typically require significantly more land to produce, may lead to greater deforestation as more land is converted to agricultural use. The UK will continue to work domestically and with partners internationally to pursue our ambitions for nature, climate, sustainable development, including in multilateral fora such as the WTO, COP28 and through the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade Dialogue.