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House of Commons Hansard
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Trans-Pacific Partnership
11 January 2018
Volume 634
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1. What his policy is on the UK joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the UK leaves the EU. [903209]

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First, I warmly welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) to my ministerial team, where he will serve as the Minister for investment. I also pay tribute to the fantastic job that his predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier), did over the course of his time in the Department.

It is right that the Government prepare for all possible outcomes from leaving the EU, including preparing for no deal. We will consider a range of options as we establish our independent trade policy on a bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral basis. The Asia-Pacific region is a very important market and an engine for future global growth. We are closely following progress of the comprehensive and progressive agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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The UK’s trade with Trans-Pacific Partnership countries amounts to 7.2% of the UK’s total trade, whereas trade with the EU amounts to 48.6%. Will the Secretary of State confirm that his Department’s priority is to secure our close economic and trading ties with the world’s largest single market before embarking on negotiations with the other trade blocs?

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These are not mutually exclusive. We want an open and comprehensive trading agreement with the European Union because it is an important part of our trade. However, TPP trade is already 14% of GDP—it would be 40% were the US to rejoin—and, as the International Monetary Fund has said, 90% of global growth in the next 10 to 15 years will occur outside Europe, where there will be important markets for the United Kingdom.

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10. Two of the countries in the TPP are Australia and New Zealand. Will the Secretary of State look closely at their closer economic relationship agreement, which allows free trade of goods and services between those two countries, and will he prioritise an agreement between the United Kingdom and those two countries? [903221]

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I have made it clear on a number of occasions, including in this House, that when it comes to future free trade agreements, Australia and New Zealand would be two of our top three priorities. If we are able, by another means, to achieve the sort of liberalisation in trade that we would all like to see, then that would be fine.

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Surely the Secretary of State would agree that no Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal will make up for the loss of the European Union market. Has he seen this morning’s independent report, commissioned by the Mayor of London, that shows what a cataclysmic effect leaving the EU will have on our business and so many jobs?

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As usual, I do not accept the premise of any part of the hon. Gentleman’s question. I do not believe that we will necessarily lose our share of the market. We want to maintain an open agreement with the European Union, and it will want to maintain an open agreement with us, because we are the fifth biggest economy in the world and a major trading partner for it. Of course, this morning’s report was anything but cataclysmic. In fact, its worst assessment was less than half the assessment that was given to us before the European referendum on what our loss of market share might be if there were no deal whatsoever.

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I, too, welcome the new arrival to the Government Front Bench. I also welcome yesterday’s trade statistics. The Secretary of State and I may disagree over how much that owes to the depreciation of sterling, but we both agree that the narrowing of the trade deficit is a very good thing.

With regard to the TPP, the Secretary of State says, “These are not mutually exclusive”, but he must account for regulatory alignment, which is part of the impact that joining the TPP would have. Indeed, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy declared that joining the TPP would be “cloud cuckoo land”. Does the Secretary of State consider that that regulatory alignment to a trade agreement negotiated in secret to suit the economies of the Pacific Rim, which constitute under 8% of our export market, is a viable proposition for our country?

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I am in favour of trade liberalisation, whether it is bilateral, plurilateral or multilateral. If we can achieve openness in the global trading environment so that we can get global trading volumes up, that is of benefit not just to the United Kingdom but particularly to developing countries that should be able to trade their way out of poverty and not depend on aid.