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Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Volume 718: debated on Thursday 21 July 2022

12. What progress her Department has made on securing UK membership of the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. (901233)

The UK is well on the way to joining CPTPP, one of the largest trading blocs in the world. We are now in market access negotiations, which are the final phase of the accession process.

May I first say what a great pleasure it is to ask my right hon. Friend—and she will always be my friend—this question? Will she say—[Interruption.] Sorry, that was an emotional moment, Mr Speaker; I hope you will forgive me. Will she outline the real advantages that CPT—whatever the bloody thing is called—[Interruption.] Whatever the ruddy thing is called. Will should outline the benefits of membership, and will she perhaps also say what sort of difference it will make to our trading relationship with the United States, which is also a member?

I thank my very dear hon. Friend for that question. He is right to point to the benefits of joining this trading bloc: 99.9% of all UK goods are eligible for tariff-free access, it will increase wages in this country, and obviously it will help our relationships with other nations outside the bloc. The UK moving to the accession process will encourage and strengthen other like-minded free-trade nations around the world to co-operate and do more together, and to reform the World Trade Organisation.

I welcome the Minister’s answer. If the United Kingdom becomes part of this bloc, will the Minister outline what trading advantages will come directly to Northern Ireland and its businesses? We obviously want to gain from it as well.

Those very same benefits will also apply to Northern Ireland, and the hon. Gentleman will know that we are providing extra support to help with the particular export opportunities, including for services, that are so strong in Northern Ireland. We are determined not only with this accession, but with the other FTAs we are doing, that all businesses can benefit, because that is obviously our end goal.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for a fantastic, brave, clean campaign for the leadership of the Conservative party and to be Prime Minister.

As a passionate Brexiteer, does my right hon. Friend agree that being a force for good in the world for free trade is an absolutely honourable goal and one that the UK should promote at every opportunity?

I thank my right hon. Friend. I am amazed to find myself here this morning given my reported work ethic, but here I am.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that the UK, a G7 nation, leaving the regulatory orbit of the EU is an international event. It gives us a huge opportunity, alongside nations like the United States, to set out our view of the world and of capitalism and to fight for the things we believe in.

Environmental campaigners have raised concerns that joining the CPTPP would put our deforestation commitments at risk because it drops generic trade tariffs. What assurances can the Minister provide that our trade deals will not put our environmental commitments at risk?

I would point to the forestry programmes that this nation has funded—some more than 30 years old—in parts of the world that are covered by this trading bloc. This country has an important history under successive Governments of protecting not only our own environment but that of other nations. I ask the hon. Lady to point those programmes out to any of her constituents who are concerned.

From swerving eight invitations to attend the International Trade Committee to avoiding bringing a debate with a vote to this Chamber before ratification, we have seen a truly shameless attempt from the Department for International Trade to dodge to any form of scrutiny of the trade deal with Australia. With the UK now negotiating membership of the CPTPP, I have a simple question: will the Minister promise that this House will be granted a full and timely debate before any deal is ratified—yes or no?

I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to set out any parliamentary business and timetable for any future trade agreements. We have clearly committed to a particular process. For my part, every time the International Trade Committee or other body of this House has asked me to go before it, I have. That is the attitude of the ministerial team, and we will continue to do that.