Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [Lords] Debate

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Department: Department for Business and Trade
Gareth Thomas Portrait Gareth Thomas
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I welcome my hon. Friend’s call for clarity from the Secretary of State, because the collapse of these talks leaves our exporters to Canada worse off than when we were in Europe. There has been no deal with the US, no deal by Diwali with India, no courage to do a veterinary agreement with the EU, and now this failure by Ministers.

Greg Hands Portrait The Minister for Trade Policy (Greg Hands)
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I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for the Canada agreement, but can he explain why, on 8 February 2017, he voted against the UK doing a deal with Canada in the first place?

Gareth Thomas Portrait Gareth Thomas
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The right hon. Gentleman has some gall asking that question, bearing in mind that, during parliamentary consideration of the Trade Act 2021, he promised to negotiate a better agreement with the EU. Now we find ourselves having worse terms of trade with Canada than we had when we were in the EU.

It is striking, too, that one issue that bedevilled those discussions on the EU-Canada deal is now supported by Conservative Members. The Secretary of State specifically sought to avoid investor-state dispute settlement provisions in the bilateral deal with Canada that has now collapsed. We raised those concerns at the time.

This Bill and our accession to CPTPP will not make up for the tens of millions of pounds of extra costs that manufacturers and the car industry will face when exporting to Canada due to the loss of EU cumulation rights and the higher tariffs that will result from April. This Bill will also not be much help for dairy businesses that export to Canada. Cheese exporters are now facing tariffs of 245%, because Ministers were too late to try to stop the loss of a vital quota for tariff rate reductions. Ministers had to be woken up to this issue by questions from the Opposition.

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Greg Hands Portrait The Minister for Trade Policy (Greg Hands)
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It is a pleasure to reply to what has been a wide-ranging and often well-informed debate. The Bill’s passage will enable the UK to meet international obligations on accession to the CPTPP, thereby unlocking the next chapter in the country’s proud tradition of trading freely with the world. Acting as a gateway to growth, the agreement will place the UK at the centre of a vast free trade area currently comprising 11 sovereign countries. For UK consumers, reductions in tariffs could lead to cheaper imports, better choice and higher quality products, all while protections in critical areas are maintained. With more than 99% of current goods exports to CPTPP parties being eligible for zero tariffs, businesses in every corner of the UK stand to benefit.

Dan Carden Portrait Dan Carden (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab)
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I will lightly sidestep the party political debate. As the Minister knows, my interest is in Mexico—I have chaired the all-party parliamentary group on Mexico for five years, and am now proudly the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Mexico—which is the world’s 16th largest economy and will be the ninth largest by 2030. That offers great opportunities, not least for my region, the north-west, which trades more with Mexico than any other region. Plenty of labour rights are included in the CPTPP; the question is how they will be enforced. For instance, every party to the CPTPP holds obligations under the International Labour Organisation. The question is how we trade more as well as raise protections through the CPTPP.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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I thought for a moment that the hon. Member was going to verge off into football. I was going to congratulate him on his constituency team, Liverpool, beating Fulham last week. In any case, I thank him. He was recently appointed the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Mexico, which is a really important position. In general, Mexico presents a great opportunity. Our rolled-over trade deal with Mexico dates from a long time ago—about 2002-03.

The hon. Member will know that the CPTPP includes a comprehensive chapter on labour, with binding provisions on fundamental labour rights, minimum wage, hours of work and health and safety. All parties to the CPTPP are members of the ILO, and they are not allowed to derogate from their domestic labour laws to give them an unfair trade advantage. That is how the labour chapter in the CPTPP works. I look forward to discussions with him, and to doing everything we can to work together to boost trade with Mexico.

Before I extoll the benefits of the agreement still further, I will say that it is a pleasure to be back at the Department, and to see the further progress being made tonight towards the UK being the 12th party to the CPTPP. This is a tremendously exciting moment for both the UK and global trade policy—one that the Department and I personally have been building towards for many years. Back in about 2017, one of the earliest decisions in the Department under the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Sir Liam Fox), was to explore accession to the trans-Pacific partnership, as the CPTPP was then known.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
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May I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for the work that he has done, both on this arrangement in general, and more specifically in promoting our mutual trade and investment agreements with nations in Asia? It is the 67th year of Malaysian independence; this is the first trade and investment agreement that we have ever had with that very encouraging far-eastern nation, with which we can develop a great and stronger relationship. Does he agree?

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Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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My hon. Friend is quite right. Of course, successive Secretaries of State have pursued that relationship, including the current Secretary of State, who is personally obviously very committed. I think that I have made two visits to Malaysia in my time as Trade Minister, and we are really excited about having a better trade relationship with Malaysia.

It seemed a logical move to join the CPTPP, as it included many of our global free trading cohort, including Japan, Australia and New Zealand, but it did not have the controversial aspects of free trade zones in Europe, such as free movement, financial contributions and dynamic alignment of rules. As the Secretary of State said, the agreement will grow. Joining the CPTPP will be great news for the UK as an independent trading nation, and for UK goods and services exporters. They include beverage producers in Scotland—I did not hear the SNP extolling that virtue—machinery manufacturers in Wales, and car manufacturers in Northern Ireland and the west midlands.

According to 2022 data, the UK is the world’s second largest services exporter—a point also raised by my hon. Friends on the Government Benches. Joining the CPTPP will help minimise unnecessary data flow barriers, empower UK services exporters and encourage inward financial investment—a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey). Overall, it will provide us with a new presence in the wider Indo-Pacific region—a region of paramount geopolitical and economic importance, and one that is expected to account for 54% of global economic growth by 2050.

I warmly welcome the constructive comments made and the support from sectors across the country. In her opening speech, the Secretary of State quoted the president of the National Farmers Union and the director-general of the Institute of Export and International Trade. I would like to add just one more quote, from the Federation of Small Businesses. We had an intervention earlier about SMEs; the FSB said that it is

“very pleased to see the UK officially join”.

In FSB research, 45% of small exporters said that access to this market will be important for future growth.

Today we have heard a number of important points raised, and I will try to answer as many as possible in the time available. I remind the House of the specific purpose of the Bill: to enable the implementation of aspects of the CPTPP when the UK accedes, specifically relating to chapters on intellectual property, Government procurement and technical barriers to trade.

First of all, we heard from the hon. Member for Harrow West (Gareth Thomas), who gave us his familiar explication of how we are not doing enough trade deals, even though he has voted against every single one of the deals that we have done. We heard about his attitude to Canada, and his faux outrage about the idea that there might be a weakening in the existing trade deal with Canada. We heard that from the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) and the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy). They also said that the Government are letting down people by not having an effective continuation of the Canada trade deal. We can differ on that, but the difference in the case of the hon. Member for Harrow West is that he voted against the Canada trade deal in the first place. He is now taking time to complain about the weakening of an agreement that he did not support from the very off.

On China, the hon. Member for Harrow West has been reminded about the Auckland principles, and that all countries acceding to the CPTPP must accede to the high standards of the agreement, have a history of conforming with trade agreements and command the consensus of the parties. The investor-state dispute settlement, which was also raised by the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), is in the agreement, but I remind the House that the UK has never lost a case. The right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington called it hubristic to mention that, but it is a fact, and the agreement never prevents the right to regulate. On performers’ rights, raised by the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sarah Green), the CPTPP is an existing agreement, and changes will have to be made.

John McDonnell Portrait John McDonnell
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I have made this point on previous occasions, but I just want to understand the logic of the Government’s position of allowing the ISDS in this particular deal, but trying to avoid it in the free trade agreement with Canada.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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These are all matters for negotiation. What happens in one negotiation will not always be the same as what happens in another; it is impossible to compare them. I can say that we already have ISDS provisions with seven of the 11 CPTPP members.

John McDonnell Portrait John McDonnell
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Will the Minister give way?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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I will not, because I am trying to respond to the right hon. Gentleman’s earlier points. On performers’ rights, raised by the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham, we expect the practical impact to be small. The Intellectual Property Office is carrying out a consultation on how the provisions will be implemented.

My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) made a characteristically upbeat and excellent speech, pointing out that the region has £12 trillion in GDP, how the UK will be—and is—at the forefront of global trade, and how the deal will make no alteration to our standards.

From the SNP spokesperson, the hon. Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson), we heard a familiar tale of woe. He failed to stick up for Scotland and to point out all the trade benefits for Scotland. He said that he has been against every single UK trade deal, and that is correct, but he failed to mention that he has also been against every single EU trade deal that has ever been negotiated. He wishes to rejoin the EU and be subject to those very trade deals that he spent years campaigning against. He was against the Canada deal, the South Africa deal, the Japan deal, the Singapore deal and the Korea deal.

The hon. Member failed to mention the particular benefits to Scotland. He was wrong when he said that the GDP increase is £2 billion—it is £2 billion per annum. Then, he went down an extraordinary road of talking about eggs. Ninety per cent. of our egg consumption comes from domestic production. All eggs are subject to sanitary and phytosanitary checks, and from Wednesday, EU eggs will be, too, under the border target operating model. We have imported hardly any eggs at all from CPTPP countries since 2015. I think he mentioned eggs from Mexico, but there has been not a single import of an egg from Mexico since 2005. This is the most extraordinary scaremongering. The Trade and Agriculture Commission said:

“we found it was unlikely that eggs from CPTPP parties…would be imported into the UK”.

The hon. Member is sacrificing the interests of those selling Scotch whisky and other high-quality Scottish produce by starting scare stories about the importation of eggs, which are not coming to this country. He mentioned workers’ rights; I have already said that there is a comprehensive labour chapter.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, made a constructive speech. He said that the deal was good for farmers, good for whisky and had a good digital chapter. He is right that we are doing more trade deals— we are going further with Switzerland, Turkey, South Korea and others. He is right on the scale of the CPTPP and growth. On pesticides, there is no change to our right to regulate or to our import standards. We set the maximum limits on pesticides—there is no change to that.

The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham said that we already have deals with nine of the 11 members. Well, it depends on what is in the deal. As I pointed out in response to the intervention from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden), the existing deal with Mexico is very old—it goes back more than 20 years. The CPTPP is a very modern deal. We can get a lot more done with a very modern deal than with a deal that is many decades old. She complained about the lack of parliamentary scrutiny. There have been two oral statements, 16 written ministerial statements, and Ministers and officials have appeared before five Select Committees to give evidence on the CPTPP. That is a lot of parliamentary scrutiny over the years. On palm oil, the TAC said that it is unlikely that the CPTPP will lead to an increase in palm oil being grown on deforested land. We have had impact assessments galore, but I am happy to look at the public health assessment mentioned by the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington.

Finally, we heard a speech from the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Sarah Dyke), which was alarmist in its impact on farmers. The NFU supports the agreement. She described the “toxic tendrils” of the deal, and even blamed “insipid sandwiches” on this Tory Government. There are many things that I am not quite sure can be blamed on any Government, and the quality of sandwiches is going too far. She started verging into what sounded a little like conspiracy theories.

The Bill is the next step in the creation of the outward-looking and internationalist UK that we envisage for our country’s future. Through the UK’s accession to the CPTPP, the Government will place the UK at the centre of a modern, progressive and values-based partnership that spans the Americas and Asia, and which other economies are queueing up to join. It is the gateway to new business opportunities and greater consumer choice benefits that will be felt in every corner of the UK. While the legislation may be narrow, it is crucial to the UK’s ability to accede to the CPTPP. I therefore commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [Lords] (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [Lords]:


(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 22 February 2024.

(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Consideration and Third Reading

(4) Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.

(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.

(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading.

Other proceedings

(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.—(Robert Largan.)

Question agreed to.