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Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Volume 689: debated on Thursday 25 February 2021

What assessment she has made of the potential merits for UK businesses of the UK joining the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. (912433)

Joining the CPTPP is a massive opportunity for UK businesses. It will cut tariffs for vital industries such as cars and whisky, and it will help drive an exports-led, jobs-led recovery from covid.

As opposed to the flat EU markets, we know that CPTPP markets are emerging and growing, giving huge tariff-free opportunities for those that join, so for my barley barons of North Norfolk, may I ask the Secretary of State what wonderful opportunities for growth access to these markets gives us?

I know my hon. Friend was delighted with our Japan deal, which gave more access for malt in the Japanese market, where we are the second largest exporter of malt. We will be looking for more such opportunities under the CPTPP for malt and whisky, to make sure that the barley barons continue to do well.

Will the Secretary of State explain the recent comments from her top adviser on trade and agriculture, Mr Shanker Singham? He said:

“I think it would be fantastic to get the EU into the CPTPP”,

which is interesting, but not as interesting as what he said next. He said that the EU

“would not be able to join at the moment…With their approach on agriculture and standards, it is impossible for them to accede.”

Can the Secretary of State explain what he means?

I do not know what Mr Singham means. He is an adviser to the Government; he is not the Government. The important point is that now we have left the European Union, we have an opportunity to develop more innovative policies in areas such as agriculture. For example, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has recently launched a consultation on gene editing. We will be able to use new technologies to benefit farmers in Britain and across the world—technologies that historically the EU was averse to.

I do not really think that gene editing was the answer to the question. The question was: what does Mr Singham mean? Perhaps I can help. I think he means that joining the CPTPP not only means eliminating tariffs on meat exports from other member states; it also means abandoning the precautionary principle when we decide which meat imports to allow. If the Secretary of State disagrees on that, perhaps she will answer this: under the terms that she is proposing to join the trans-Pacific partnership, will Britain have the right to ban the import of meat produced using growth-promoting antibiotics?

I am sure that the right hon. Lady, being an avid student of the CPTPP, will have read the fact that the same standards on SPS—sanitary and phytosanitary—are in the CPTPP as are in the World Trade Organisation, which the UK has already signed up to. I have been very clear that in every trade deal we sign, we will not lower our excellent standards in the United Kingdom, and we will not expose our farmers to unfair competition.