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Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 20 January 2022

2. What progress her Department has made on securing UK membership of the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. (905101)

14. What progress her Department has made on securing UK membership of the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. (905119)

Is CPTPP not now one of the greatest opportunities we have to reshape the basis of international trade, to the benefit of not only the whole UK and the world, but great British businesses such as Oxford Instruments in Wycombe?

I thank my hon. Friend for the work he is doing to champion his local businesses. He is right: it is an £8.4 trillion market that we are opening up. However, this is about not only the economic benefits, but the benefits of those closer trading ties to enable people to work on problems that we are all facing around the world, in tech, the environment, healthcare and other sectors. That has got to be good for the progress of humanity as well.

Many people in Cheadle work in the tech sector, where jobs in digital, HealthTech and FinTech provide high-skilled, well-paid work. Given the high rate of northern unicorn start-ups, does my right hon. Friend agree that new trading partnerships can open up markets for future growth and for levelling up in the north?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; the pay for people working in those sectors is about 50% higher than the UK average, so the more jobs we can create in those growth sectors, the better. I thank her for the work she is doing to champion her local businesses and expand those opportunities for her constituents.

For every £490 of Brexit damage, CPTPP should recover about £8 of it, but that is at risk if the UK patent attorneys’ membership of the European Patent Organisation is undermined or removed. At the moment, UK patent attorneys, who represent about a fifth of the patent attorneys in Europe, deal with a third of the patents of Europe. What assessment has been made by the Government of the damage that could be done to them through CPTPP and will that assessment be published so that they will know?

CPTPP is not doing damage and our accession to it is opening up markets. I work closely with all kinds of professional bodies, including those looking at patents, intellectual property and so forth. These are key sectors where we want to break down barriers to trade. As well as free trade agreements, we are looking, as the hon. Gentleman will know, at memorandums of understanding not only with countries across the world, but with states in the United States, to enable those non-tariff barriers to trade to be removed. We want to work with the EU. I know that the hon. Gentleman has not come to terms with the fact that we have left the EU and that we are looking to expand our trading opportunities. Some 99.9% of the businesses in his constituency that export will benefit from CPTPP, and I look forward to the day when he welcomes that.

The national food strategy published last year said that to allow lower environmental and welfare standards in future trade deals would represent

“an extraordinary failure of joined-up thinking”,

yet that seems to be exactly the Government’s approach. As we await the Government’s White Paper in response to the national food strategy, what discussions is the Minister having with colleagues in other Departments to make sure that in that White Paper we firmly pin down that we will not accept lower standards?

As I have alluded to, as well as the economic benefits that we hope trade agreements will bring, they are about highlighting the fantastic food safety, quality and welfare standards of our local produce and are an opportunity to champion that. For example, on my recent visit to the United States I met the agriculture commissioners of every state and talked about the practices and values that sit behind what we do here in the UK. The United States is interested in that and wants to reform some of its practices. I know that the hon. Lady is passionate about this agenda and hope she will support us in ours.