Today’s launch of trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand is an historic moment for this country. When we left the EU, we did so on the promise of trading more with friends and allies across the world. Deals with Australia and New Zealand are a powerful expression of our new-found independence and our intent to build a global Britain. I say to our old friends: Britain is back. These agreements will strengthen ties with like-minded countries who share our values and our commitment to free trade. They will create more opportunities for British businesses and more choice for British consumers, and provide us with greater economic security. Strategically, they will also help us to forge closer economic ties with the wider Pacific region.
The foundations for both deals are strong. We already have close ties in areas such as cars, steel, services, and food and drink, and 31,000[Official Report, 24 June 2020, Vol. 677, c. 4MC.] small businesses export to Australia. One in every five bottles of wine drunk in Britain comes from Australia. Free trade deals can build on those successes, boosting UK exports to both countries by around £1 billion. They will also show the rest of the world that Britain is prepared to defend and advance the ideals of free trade and freedom.
Deals with Australia and New Zealand are a key step towards membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the largest free trade agreements in the world. Along with Japan, with whom we launched trade negotiations last week, both Australia and New Zealand support our membership, and today we have formally announced our intention to pursue accession to the agreement. We do so for three reasons. First, we do so to secure more trade and investment, to help our economy to overcome the challenges posed by coronavirus. Hitching ourselves to the fastest-growing part of the world will help to deliver on the growth and prosperity we urgently need. Secondly, it will help to diversify our trade and supply chains, to make our economy more resilient and open up new export opportunities in industries such as tech and digital, food and drink, and automotive. Thirdly, it is an important part of our strategy to turn the UK into a global trading hub. We want to put the UK at the centre of a network of modern free trade agreements.
CPTPP is a high-standards agreement, spanning four continents. Its members are 11 like-minded nations, all of whom believe in the principles of free trade, international co-operation and the rules-based system. Our trade with individual CPTPP countries is already worth more than £110 billion. By joining the agreement, we can open up even more opportunities for our go-getting businesses and turbo-charge trade and investment. Membership will help us to sell more British buses to Mexico, more life-saving antibiotics to Vietnam and more medical technology to Peru, and, of course, it will help us to export more of our world-class food and drink, including more Welsh lamb to Japan and Scotch whisky to Canada.
We firmly believe membership will support all UK businesses, not least the small businesses that have suffered most during coronavirus. Access to the agreements dedicated SME chapter will ease barriers to trade for small businesses by cutting tariffs and reducing red tape. It will give thousands of businesses access to this most dynamic group of markets and couple Britain to one of the most vibrant economic regions in the world. We have already explored membership with all 11 countries, in line with CPTPP’s accession process, and we are now moving to the formal stage.
At a time of unprecedented global upheaval, now is the time to look out to the world, not turn our backs on it. It is a time to be ambitious and seek trade deals with nations who share our values and our commitment to free trade. Agreements with New Zealand and Australia and are an important step towards our vision of a truly global Britain—a Britain that is once again a fierce campaigner for free trade; a Britain that leads by example. Membership of CPTPP is the next logical step. Joining the agreement would show the rest of the world that we are back as a proud, independent nation, prepared to look far beyond our own shores. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement and for always keeping the House up to date on the progress of her trade negotiations. On my count, in those six weeks, the Secretary of State has formally launched new trade negotiations with four different countries—the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand—on top of the 16 negotiations that she is already leading to roll over our EU third country agreements, all of which, according to her own timetable, she wants signed and sealed within the next six months. In addition, we now have today’s statement committing the Government to begin negotiations on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, CPTPP—I am going to pronounce it “C-tip” for short.
As the Secretary of State said, CPTPP currently comprises 11 members, accounting for 13% of global GDP, making it the third-largest free trade area in the world. So in theory, the UK becoming a member sounds like it deserves the fanfare that the Secretary of State has given it today. However, let us now look at those 11 countries. With seven of them, we already have free trade agreements, courtesy of our membership of the EU—that is Japan, Canada, Singapore, Mexico, Chile, Peru and Vietnam. With two of those—Chile and Peru—roll-over deals are in place to continue free trade beyond December. With the other five, bilateral negotiations are still ongoing to get roll-over deals agreed. That is seven out of the 11 taken care of.
Then, just this morning, the Secretary of State formally launched free trade negotiations with another two CPTPP members, Australia and New Zealand. Just to be clear, according to the Secretary of State’s plans, by the time we join CPTPP, we should already have bilateral free trade deals in place with nine of its 11 members, accounting for 95% of the UK’s current trade with the CPTPP area. In fact, the only new free trade agreements that we stand to gain from membership of CPTPP are with the kingdoms of Malaysia and Brunei, which, between them, accounted for just 0.37% of the UK’s total world trade last year.
I ask the Secretary of State: what are the benefits of joining CPTPP for UK trade, growth and jobs, over and above the benefits that she has already forecast from trade deals with Japan, Australia and the seven other CPTPP countries with whom bilateral negotiations are already complete or still in train? Could she then tell us how these potential benefits stack up against some of the potential risks of CPTPP membership? First, will the UK be subject to the provisions in CPTPP for investor state dispute settlement, with all the risks that that poses to our ability to protect public services, consumers and the environment from corporate profiteers? Secondly, will membership of CPTPP demand the sharing of our citizens’ data, including health records? If so, how will that data be protected? If other CPTPP members are not compliant with the general data protection regulation, how will that affect the ability of UK service companies to access EU citizens’ data?
Thirdly, will CPTPP membership oblige us to accept a “list it or lose it” approach to private competition in the public sector? If so, can the Government guarantee a blanket exception for our NHS and other essential public services? Fourthly, will we be obliged to accept the regulatory standards on animal welfare and food production established under CPTPP and, if so, are they compatible with other existing standards?
Finally, will the Government negotiate the terms of our CPTPP membership to benefit key British trade sectors, or will we have to accept the existing terms of an agreement shaped in the interests of others? I raise those questions not from confirmed opposition to CPTPP but simply because we need to know whether the risks are worth taking if the only distinct benefit is the prospect of free trade with Malaysia and Brunei. That debate has not yet been won, and I urge the Secretary of State to reopen it for consultation with industry, unions and other stakeholders who did not have the time to study the proposals properly during the busy Brexit negotiations in autumn 2018.
In closing, we cannot divorce this debate from that around the still busy Brexit negotiations. The businesses I speak to around the country simply cannot understand why the Government are spending so much time and effort trying to negotiate international trade deals of relatively low value when they have yet to secure our continued trade with Europe. I am all for expanding the 0.3% of global trade that we share with Malaysia and Brunei, which is all the statement ultimately amounts to, but as the 47% of our trade that depends on Europe is hanging in the balance that is where the Government’s priorities should lie.
I am not surprised that the right hon. Lady is trying to do down our efforts to secure trade agreements with the vast majority of the world and join some of the most exciting free-trade areas in existence, because the Opposition refused even to support trade deals with Canada and Japan when we were members of the EU. She talked about a continuity agreement, but she did not even support signing it in the first place. Only the Labour party could call low value a trade area where the UK has £100 billion-worth of trade. I do not know what mathematics or economics that relates to, but it is certainly none with which I am familiar.
Let me be clear with the right hon. Lady. The deal of which we would be part with CPTPP goes much further than the existing roll-over agreements that countries such as Canada have with the EU. For example, CPTPP has an advanced digital and data chapter. The UK is a data and digital superpower. We are third in the world for the number of billion-dollar tech companies, after the US and China. CPTPP has an advanced digital and data chapter to which the EU would not sign up. That chapter gives us access to that in Canada, Mexico, Peru and Chile across the agreement.
This agreement removes 95% of tariffs—again, going further than many of the roll-over agreements. We are talking about joining one of the most advanced trade agreement areas in the world. The measure goes far beyond what the EU was willing or able to agree, which is a huge opportunity for the UK. It is completely wrong to suggest that this is about Malaysia and Brunei, although I do not deprecate Malaysia, which is a fast-growing market and a good trade opportunity for the UK.
To say that CPTPP is simply equivalent to the deals that the EU is negotiating with those nations betrays a lack of understanding of the text of these trade agreements. I am very happy to share with the right hon. Lady the additional chapters in question.
The right hon. Lady suggested that I will close all these trade deals in the next six months, and I am very flattered by her belief in my superhuman power to do so. I have not said that we are going to close all the trade deals we are negotiating in the next six months. For example, we have set no timetable on a United States trade deal, so it is simply not true to say that we have a target of closing all them in the next six months.
We will do deals that are good for Britain, and we will be prepared to walk away if we do not get what the UK wants. For example, the national health service is not on the table and the price we pay for drugs is not on the table. [Interruption.] The right hon. Lady has asked me a series of questions, and she might listen to the answers, rather than chatting to her colleague on the Front Bench, the hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson).
I am very clear that we will not lower our food import standards. We have an excellent independent agency, the Food Standards Agency. As part of the withdrawal agreement, all our import standards, including those on chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef, will be on the UK statute book, and it would take a vote in Parliament to overturn them. We are not negotiating that as part of any of these trade agreements. It is simply scaremongering from the right hon. Lady.
We have a huge opportunity here to forge a new future for global Britain, and we are not going to listen to the scaremongering and negativity from the Labour party. We are going to take those opportunities, and we are going to move forward.
I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. If Britain joins CPTPP, it will create a trade grouping of roughly the same size as the European Union, now that Britain has left, but without the political restrictions on the UK and with some new strategic advantages, not least vis-à-vis China. Of course, trade is not just about trade agreements, so can my right hon. Friend tell us what help will be given to British exporters to help them get into the markets of CPTPP, both here and overseas? Without trade, trade agreements are no more than a piece of paper.
First, I thank my right hon. Friend for all the work he did as International Trade Secretary in pursuing this ambitious agenda. It is great that I have the Under-Secretary of State for International Trade, my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), the Minister responsible for exports, on the Front Bench with me, and we are working on a new export strategy precisely to take advantage of the new trade agreements we are negotiating. One thing we are negotiating in all those agreements is a dedicated SME chapter to make it easier for our small and medium-sized enterprises to get through procedures, to get rid of a lot of the red tape and to get into those overseas markets. We will be spending this year helping those companies to do that.
I thank the Secretary of State for her statement and for early sight of it. I agree with her that forging trade links with the wider Pacific region is a good thing to do. I would also say that membership of CPTPP, if we can join on the right terms, may help to claw back some of the enormous losses that will result from Brexit.
At its heart, however, the Secretary of State’s statement was little more than hopeful rhetoric about the UK’s future trade prospects, and those prospects are by no means certain, as is evidenced by the rather modest rise in Canadian exports to partner countries. Her statement did not tell us in any detail what is actually proposed to be discussed, and it does rather beggar belief that she did not see fit to report to the House the challenges, difficulties and sticking points that she foresees in future negotiations; nor, I suspect, has she given any comfort to those who raised many significant concerns over accession in the last consultation.
What limits will the Secretary of State set in her negotiations on lowering barriers to allow for greater market access for foreign services suppliers? What limits will she place on the removal or weakening of behind-the-border non-tariff barriers, and what about important things such as workers’ rights, product safety regulations and food quality standards? What action does she propose to ensure that the monitoring of partner countries adheres to core International Labour Organisation standards, and that freedom of association is allowed in partner countries? What action will she take to avoid product dumping via partner countries becoming a very real problem? How will she allay concerns over investor-state dispute settlement provisions reducing the Government’s ability to legislate? Unless and until those and many other concerns are fully and transparently addressed, huge anxiety will remain in the public about whether CPTPP is even right for the UK.
What we are announcing today is our intention to accede, and we are talking to all 11 partners of CPTPP to have those preparatory discussions. Our formal application to CPTPP will require 11 different market access agreements to be sought with all the separate nations with which we are negotiating. We have absolutely no intention of lowering our food safety, environmental or labour standards, or any other standards. We are a high-quality, high-standards nation, and we want to work with the CPTPP countries on that basis. We believe in free trade and the rules-based system, and that is very much what CPTPP stands for.
The hon. Gentleman asked about investor-state dispute settlement systems. We have signed up to a number of those already, in a series of investor agreements that the UK has already made. Indeed, there are investor provisions in the comprehensive economic and trade agreement, which we are seeking to roll over with Canada. We will always ensure that the UK Government have the right to regulate, that we have control of our public services and that the NHS is not on the table. If we do not get those things in any of the agreements we try to negotiate, we will simply walk away.
There can be no doubt that my right hon. Friend is doing all she can to seize every possible opportunity as we grasp our new freedoms, not least for Melton’s stilton and pork pie producers. Does she agree that our joining CPTPP is important if we are to strengthen trading relationships with allies who respect international norms and values, better to isolate rogue trading practices by states that use trade as a weapon?
My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. One benefit of CPTPP is that it is a free-trade, high-standards arrangement with countries that follow the rules. We want to create alliances with like-minded allies across the world and ensure that that is the way the world trade system operates. It is also important to diversify our trade, so that we are not dependent on single countries or regions for imports, or for where we export to. We must have options as a country and be able to work with those who share our values.
Many people in my party have long had their suspicions about the extent of the Government’s plans after Brexit, but I do not think that any of us, even in our wildest dreams, imagined that leaving Europe meant relocating to the Pacific. Given that the Government have such limited time and bandwidth while dealing with the pandemic, is this the right time to be entering into negotiations to join a partnership that currently represents just 8% of our exports? We are still a long way from agreeing a trade partnership with the EU, which represents 45% of our exports. What are the Government’s priorities?
As we seek to recover from coronavirus, it is incredibly important that we protect and expand our exports, which represent 31% of the UK economy and include vital industries such as the steel industry, the car industry and the food and drink industry. We must find new markets for those exports and link to fast-growing parts of the world. We must also protect against protectionism. One of the benefits of signing free trade agreements is avoiding tariffs on our goods and services, and CPTPP represents 13% of the global economy—16% if we add the UK—and includes fast-growing parts of the world. At a time when we are seeking to revive the economy, this is exactly the type of agreement we should be joining. In parallel, of course, we are negotiating with the EU to secure a good agreement with it. It is not an either/or; we need to be trading with all the world.
Montgomeryshire has many Japanese-owned manufacturing businesses and the UK’s largest livestock market ready to ship Welsh lamb across the world at the drop of a hat. I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Given that Japan accounts for nearly half of the GDP of this partnership, what outreach have we done with our close economic friends and allies, what are the Japanese Government saying about our accession and what support can we rely on from our allies to help us accede to this great partnership?
Japan is a very important partner of the UK, and we are separately negotiating our bilateral trade agreement, but when I spoke to Minister Motegi, who is responsible for negotiating on Japan’s behalf, he was very clear that he supported the UK’s accession to CPTPP. We are also pursuing accession with Australia and New Zealand. These bilateral partnerships are a way of accessing that wider arrangement in Asia- Pacific. My hon. Friend is right—there are huge export opportunities for Britain into Japan and huge investment opportunities for British firms into Japan and for Japanese firms into the UK.
I too welcome the negotiations the Secretary of State has announced with Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand is an interesting case, because CPTPP includes provisions for an investor-state dispute settlement, allowing major corporations to challenge the ability of Governments to regulate in areas such as environmental protection. Will she follow the example of New Zealand and seek to exclude the UK from this mechanism?
In the negotiations, we are very clear that we will not allow any agreement to interfere with our right to regulate in areas such as the environment, food standards and public services such as the national health service. That is a clear red line for us.
In my constituency, we do not have any shipping ports, but we have plenty of computer ports that connect us to entire world. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that the CPTPP negotiations and discussions, and all the work being done, will enable all the digital businesses in my constituency to trade gladly around the world?
My hon. Friend is right that the advanced digital and data chapter in CPTPP will provide huge confidence for those seeking to buy products in that region from British businesses. It is extraordinary that the Labour party does not think that is of any value. It does not think that the EU, which is prepared to sign these digital and data chapters, has agreements any different from the type of agreement we are seeking to accede to, missing out a huge part of the UK economy.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) said earlier, the original consultation on membership of this partnership took place over a three-month period in autumn 2018, when most of industry and this country was preoccupied with the Brexit negotiations. Would it not be sensible now to have a second consultation so that stakeholders can have a proper chance to assess and comment on the implications for them?
We have conducted a consultation already. We gave businesses a chance to respond. But rest assured, we will engage with businesses throughout this process through our system of expert trade advisory groups, which consult specific industries on the aspect of agreements they relate to. We are negotiating these deals precisely to benefit British businesses—to get the tariffs removed on cars, whisky and so on. We will consult businesses throughout this process to make sure every sector and area of the UK benefits.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that Scotland has a great trading history and that its historical links with Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada place it well to take advantage of the negotiation that she is announcing today? Do quality products such as Scotch whisky not give us an advantage? This is about quality; it is not about reducing standards.
Scotch whisky is a hugely successful export right around the world, including to Japan, Australia and New Zealand. One of my aims in these negotiations is to get the tariffs removed on this excellent product so that people can drink even more of it around the world. My right hon. Friend is right about Scotland’s proud trading history. I hope that the businesses and people of Scotland listen to him rather than the negative voices we heard from the SNP.
We now go to Stirling, to Alyn Smith.
An apposite time to make my contribution, Madam Deputy Speaker—thank you.
I have to stress that Scotland’s farmers are united in their concern about what they are losing from leaving the European Union rather than otherwise, however much breathless vacuity can be presented about the ambitions of these trade deals. They are deeply concerned, to the extent that the Secretary of State is having to misrepresent the views of, particularly, the National Sheep Association. I refer to her article in The Scottish Farmer newspaper last week. Phil Stocker, the chief executive of the National Sheep Association, took her to task on this, saying that her misrepresentation of its position as in favour of her plans was
“a result of either laziness, or manipulative intentions.”
Can she tell us which it was, and can she assure the House that she will not do it again?
I can assure the House that for every sector of agriculture there are benefits to be found from the trade deals we are negotiating around the world. Currently, UK lamb is not allowed into the US market due to a ban. I want to get that ban removed. The US is the second largest importer of lamb in the world. That is a huge opportunity. Likewise, we will make sure that we maintain our standards, that we do not lower our import standards and that we protect British farming against any unfair competition.
The Secretary of State is well aware of my passion for maintaining our strict animal welfare and food standards. She also knows what a challenging time it has been for my dairy farmers and my sheep farmers during this covid crisis. What trading opportunities with New Zealand and Australia does she see for them as we go through the CPTPP?
My hon. Friend is a huge champion for his farmers. What we have seen in British agriculture is increasing success in exports. We are now a net exporter of dairy products for the first time in recent years. We are getting increasingly large exports of all kinds of meat products, dairy products and finished food and drink products. He can be assured that when we are negotiating the specific market access schedules in CPTPP, we will always be looking out for British farmers, making sure that they are getting the benefit of the deal.
Nearly half of the UK’s carbon footprint probably comes from our trade overseas to satisfy UK demand. What impact assessment has the Secretary of State made of the environmental costs of expanding UK trade into the Pacific region?
We are very committed as a country to our zero carbon target by 2050, and we are working hard on the new COP—conference of the parties—summit to make sure that we achieve that. In all the trade negotiations we are conducting, we want to have strong environmental protections protecting our environmental legislation in the UK but also reduced tariffs on low and zero carbon goods.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on the good progress she is making with the bilateral trade agreement with Japan, which will be very welcome to many people employed by Japanese companies in Shropshire. I welcome her announcement and, indeed, the announcement by the Prime Minister on Australia and New Zealand today. Specifically on the partnership agreement that she has announced, could she give the House an idea of an indicative timetable—when she thinks it might be signed and whether she thinks that will be quicker than many of the trade deals that the European Union has signed?
I thank my hon. Friend for his overall comments. In terms of the timetable for CPTPP, it is an agreement with 11 members, so inevitably that means that we have to be in discussions with all those 11 members and seek agreement with all 11 members. The convenient aspect of course is that there is already an agreement fleshed out, and we will be working within that framework. We are already in discussions with all 11 members. We are negotiating bilateral deals with some of them. When we are in a position, we will put forward our formal application, and I hope we can make rapid progress. There certainly is enthusiasm about having the UK as part of CPTPP, because people see us as a high-standards country that believes in free trade and the rules-based global system. I will reach an agreement as quickly as I can, but I will make sure that at all points we get a good deal for British industry and that we do not cross any of our red lines.
Order. If everyone who has expressed an interest in speaking is to have the chance to do so, we will have to go rather faster. I make no criticism of the Secretary of State, who has had to answer complicated questions and give lengthy answers. If the questions are shorter, then the answers can also be shorter, and then everyone will get a chance to come in.
Given the Secretary of State’s ambition to have tariffs removed, will she tell us why nine of 11 products—including cheese, honey and butter—that the EU can export tariff-free to South Korea are subject to tariffs for this country under the UK-South Korea continuity agreement, which the Government have negotiated?
It is my aim in all our agreements to secure the maximum tariff-free access for our products, but in any given agreement there are always trade-offs. My key priority is making sure that we do not cross any UK red lines.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, looking across the world, free trade agreements have been shown to reduce inequalities, create jobs and boost incomes? As such, the opportunity is great from these trade deals with fast-emerging countries, both for the people of Grantham and Stamford and for Britain as a proud global independent nation.
My hon. Friend is right. Free trade has lifted a billion people out of poverty in the past few decades, and that is a record that no other policy prescription can match.
As an integral part of the United Kingdom, businesses and people in Northern Ireland, including my constituents in Upper Bann, want to benefit from the deal in the same way that any other constituted part of the UK can. Will the Secretary of State assure me that the Northern Ireland protocol will not affect Northern Ireland exporters’ ability to benefit from any trade deal and Northern Ireland businesses and consumers being able to import goods covered by such a deal?
I can assure the hon. Lady that we are working very closely with the Northern Ireland Executive to make sure that Northern Ireland is fully part of any trade deal we agree, and we are specifically consulting Northern Ireland businesses to make sure that they benefit.
I warmly welcome the statement today. The Pacific region has a growth rate that is double that of the EU. Does the Secretary of State agree that, while the modern dynamic free trade agreement that is sought stands to boost trade enormously, it is not all about numbers? We should also be welcoming the chance for close strategic ties with friends who share our interests.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We want to pursue a trade policy that is economically beneficial to the UK and levels up our country, but helps achieve more resilience for our country, protects us against protectionist urges that we are seeing around the world and diversifies our trade away from dependence on single nations or regions that we might come to regret.
It is a bit difficult not to come to the conclusion that, basically, the Government want to form new trade deals with countries that are less financially significant to us in terms of trade but speak English. If we add up all the trade that the UK does with the countries in the Commonwealth, it does not add up to the trade that we presently do with France and Germany, does it?
I could read to the hon. Gentleman the list of 11 countries—I assure him that many of them do not speak English as their main language, but that is not really the point. The point is that we want to be the centre of a global trading network. That network, of course, includes our friends and partners in the European Union. It includes the United States and the Americas. It includes the Asia-Pacific region as well. We can have all those things by creating this network of free trade agreements, and we are making rapid progress on that.
The Indo-Pacific region represents 50% of international trade and is the fastest growing region in the world. Does my right hon. Friend agree that being able to accede to the CPTPP, with all its opportunities for our strong services economy, highlights the Brexit benefit of having an independent trade policy that we can pursue on our own terms?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. She is right that we are able to pursue this policy because we are not a member of the EU, and we are able to sign up to things, such as an advanced digital and data chapter, that the EU does not want to be part of. We have recently launched our new network of digital trade emissaries around Asia precisely to push the case of British business.
While part of the EU, quotas are imposed on imports of New Zealand lamb. With the free market deal that the UK Government are chasing, and their willingness for a no-deal crash out of Europe in December, do Scottish farmers not face a double whammy of greater imports of New Zealand lamb and tariffs being applied to lamb exported to the EU?
I point out to the hon. Gentleman that New Zealand is not actually using all its current quota of lamb, because there is massive demand for New Zealand lamb around the world, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, which is closer to production. I can assure him that, when we are negotiating these deals, we will make absolutely sure that British farmers do not have their standards undermined.
Our application to accede to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, alongside our application this week to become a dialogue partner in our own right to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, highlights our commitment to Asia, as the Secretary of State has said. It is worth noting that the Kingdom of Brunei Darussalam is both party to the TPP and in the chair of ASEAN next year. Does she agree that it would also be a huge game changer if the United States of America decided to become part of the Trans-Pacific partnership, as it has already mooted?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on all his excellent work as trade envoy to countries such as Malaysia. I know that he is a big fan of Brunei and visiting it and working with it. In terms of the Americans’ trade strategy, I would not presume to advise them on which networks they should seek to be part of. It is certainly the case that the TPP is a very high-quality agreement, and we want to make it one that more members who believe in free trade and the rules-based global system want to join.
If we go a bit faster, we will be able to get everybody in.
We all want the highest standards. Can the Secretary of State explain a bit more the road map to ensure the highest food standards? Will the Government look again at setting up a food standards commission when it comes to trade deals?
We already have the Food Standards Agency, which is specifically established as a non-ministerial department to ensure independence over high-quality food standards. Any change to British food standards would need to be voted on by the UK Parliament. That is very strong protection.
This is great news for global Britain. The Trans-Pacific partnership contains countries stretching from the Arctic to the Southern ocean, from South America to Asia. I very much welcome today’s start of talks with Australia and New Zealand on a trade agreement, but is this not also a good opportunity to engage with emerging markets, particularly in south-east Asia?
It is correct to say that there are major opportunities with Australia and New Zealand. As well as being champions of free trade in that region, they are extremely well-connected to the Pacific market, so it is an opportunity to reunite with our old friends and allies, as well as to reach out to new trading partners across that very important region of the world.
I very much welcome the statement by the Secretary of State to the House today. Does she agree that what this country and British business need is confidence at this time of uncertainty? They need messages that bring about greater opportunity for diverse trade and increasing volumes of trade and that do not compromise on our stance of free trade wherever possible. They do not need the opposite messages that we are hearing today, which destroy confidence in British business.
My hon. Friend is right. There are people in this Chamber who seek to do our country down and say, “We can’t achieve this. We can’t sign up to these deals. It is all too difficult. Let us have another consultation and delay it for another few years.” Then there are those people who are go-getters, who want to help businesses in their constituencies to succeed, and who want to help us recover from coronavirus. I know which side I am on.
Let us be clear: irrespective of what the Secretary of State delivers, she will be unable to replicate the economic success of our membership of the European Union, but, if she is intent on going down this path, can she give a cast-iron guarantee to UK manufacturers and producers that they will not have to compete with cheap goods being dumped in the United Kingdom?
That is a bit of a cheek coming from a party that wants to separate from our extremely successful Union here in the UK. We want a good trade deal with the EU, just as we want a good trade deal with CPTPP.
Unlike SNP Members, I very much welcome the opportunities of international trade not just for Scotland, but for the entirety of the United Kingdom. I know that the Government recognise the importance of Japan to Scotland and to UK farmers, particularly to those farmers who export malting barley and grain. Does the Secretary of State agree that a new trade agreement with Japan not only helps Scotland’s farmers to exploit those opportunities, but potentially gives us access to that part of the world?
We are the second largest malting barley exporter to Japan after Canada and we have fine products both in Scotland and in my own region of East Anglia. Getting access to that wider CPTPP agreement, as well as reducing the tariffs in Japan, will give more opportunities to those fantastic producers.
With the grave threat posed to our own public services, let alone to those of developing nations, by the investor-state dispute settlement, will the Secretary of State commit to seeking an exemption in future trade deals, as has been achieved by New Zealand through bilateral negotiations with CPTPP?
I have already said that I will not sign up to something that threatens our right to regulate here in the UK.
The CPTPP comprises a dynamic mix of nation states, from like-minded Commonwealth countries to rapidly developing economies. Does my right hon. Friend believe that the UK’s accession will encourage further expansion of the trade bloc to the benefit British exporters?
My hon. Friend is right that it is an agreement of which many people want to be a part. In fact, other countries are looking to accede alongside the UK. One reason that our friends and allies across the world want us to join is that they see the UK as a key asset to CPTPP.
Will the Secretary of State ensure that product, environmental, health and workers’ standards do not fall below EU standards in order not to jeopardise an EU trade deal that is 47% of our trade? Equally, will she seek an exemption, as New Zealand has, from the investor-state dispute settlement, so that, in the event that we want to raise our standards of health and environment above EU standards, we will not be sued by big corporations? She has given a verbal undertaking, but will she put that into action and seek an exemption now?
I have been clear about my position on ISDS, but in the EU negotiations that are being conducted by our lead negotiator, David Frost, we are very clear we are not having a level playing field with the EU. One of the reasons for Brexit is so we can decide our own regulatory policy independently.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. The agreement goes much further than the EU-Japan economic partnership agreement of 2018 and there is much to like about it, not least for businesses in Cumbria that want to trade out and into the world. What assurances can she give me that we will not go back on our high food and environmental standards in joining this agreement?
We are absolutely committed to our high standards. That is one of the reasons why countries and people around the world want to buy British products. They trust British products; they trust the Union Jack flag; and they appreciate what we offer. Let me be clear: any change to domestic legislation resulting from any trade agreement would need to be voted on by this House, so there is a clear parliamentary process to make sure that any change has full support, but we will not be lowering those standards.
On the topic of East Anglia, I am sure my right hon. Friend will recognise the importance of a port at Felixstowe and how it needs to have the infrastructure necessary to step up to help Britain achieve its global potential. Will she commit to working with Highways England to make sure that its ridiculous plan to close a bridge when it is windy is stopped, so that we never have to go through another windy period in winter when our town grinds to a halt because road freight from the port of Felixstowe has to go through a town centre and not across a bridge?
There is no greater supporter of East Anglian infrastructure than me.
My constituents in Putney are very worried about the implications of the partnership and all the Brexit agreements for the NHS. Can the Secretary of State guarantee that the NHS and other key public services will not be opened up to competition under the negative list system in the trans-Pacific partnership?
The NHS is not on the table. The price the NHS pays for drugs is not on the table.
I welcome the accession to the CPTPP, which could be good news for UK dairy farmers. Canada, which is a member, has a lot of unused quota and there are not many other dairy producers in the partnership, so there is a huge opportunity for UK dairy there. More important, though, is transitioning the EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement, because this will be a medium to long-term ambition. Where are we on the transition arrangement for CETA?
I had a good conversation with my Canadian counterpart, Mary Ng, last week to talk about, first, our mutual commitment to free trade, but also how we are going to improve our trading relationship with Canada.
One of the reasons why the UK Government and in particular Tory Brexiteers were salivating over the idea of Brexit was about reducing red tape and cutting lots of regulation, so clearly when embarking on trade agreements the Government are going to compromise on things like food standards and workers’ rights. Will the Secretary of State tell us up front which of them she will throw on the Brexit bonfire, like the Brexiteers wanted?
It is a shame that the SNP appears to be intent on scaremongering rather than looking at the opportunities for Scottish farmers and businesses from this excellent deal.
Conservative Members are optimistic and positive about the opportunities ahead. We have heard about the opportunities for our dairy farmers, but is my right hon. Friend aware of the opportunities for our arable sector in striking a deal with the Japanese, whose desire for British malt is insatiable, at a time when so much malting barley is sat in the sheds and warehouses of our brewers and farmers? We should be excited about opening up these new markets.
My hon. Friend is right. This country produces high-quality malting barley, and my ambition is to overtake Canada in exports to Japan and to become No. 1 on the Japan malting barley list.
The Secretary of State referred to CPTPP as “11 like- minded nations” and said that
“now is the time to look out to the world”.
Will she not therefore see that it is time to follow Canada’s example and give a formal role to the devolved Administrations in establishing trade policy? Or will Scotland get that opportunity only with independence?
We have in this country a clear procedure for determining our trade agreements and a clear treaty-ratification process, which I think works well. We are committed to working closely with Scottish Members of Parliament and Scottish businesses to make sure that every part of the UK benefits from our trade-negotiation strategy.
When I think about trade deals, I think about the benefits that deals like CPTPP will bring to exporters in my patch, such as Equus Leather in Winston, which my right hon. Friend visited with me a few months ago. As she is a champion of global Britain and of free trade, does she agree that UK businesses want the UK to sign up to CPTPP and cement our relationships with top economies such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand?
Equus Leather is a fantastic business, but the fact is that it currently has to fill in lots of forms when it wants to export not only to America but to other parts of the world. I want to get dedicated SME chapters to get rid of that red tape, so that companies can focus their efforts on producing fantastic products that people around the world want to buy.