EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

Part of Food Advertising (Protection of Children from Targeting) – in the House of Commons at 3:01 pm on 26th June 2018.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade 3:01 pm, 26th June 2018

Indeed. As my hon. Friend says, what about Welsh lamb? What about Scotch beef, Dorset blue, Yorkshire Wensleydale, Cumberland sausage and Melton Mowbray pork pies? Can the Minister explain why we failed to register geographical indications to protect more of our UK food produce?

The European Scrutiny Committee raised many further crucial issues relating to the deal that remain unanswered. Under the negative list approach, all service sectors that are not explicitly exempted from liberalisation are included. It is considered to be a particular threat to public services, as it may prove impossible to shield them from liberalisation effectively once they have been committed to an international trade treaty. It means that any emergent sector in the future will be automatically subject to trade liberalisation even where there may be a clear need for Government regulation or intervention. We cannot possibly predict what those will be prior to their emergence, but what is the point of using such “negative lists” to reduce the capacity of the Government to regulate in the future?

Annex 1 allows countries to list existing non-conforming measures that enjoy some protection. Annex 2 is a stronger protection, in that it permits countries to protect service sectors into the future by allowing for the introduction of reforms that would otherwise contravene the EPA rules. As the Minister said, the UK has entered annex 2 reservations for cross-border auditing services, manpower planning for doctors in the NHS, privately funded ambulance services, and residential health facilities services other than hospital services. I repeat: other than hospital services. In other words, they are, and will forever remain in future, subject to liberalisation and competition under this agreement, in contradistinction to the implication that we heard earlier. I therefore repeat the Committee’s question: will the Minister confirm whether he is content with the proposed provisions enabling Governments to regulate in the public sector?

Do the Government intend to negotiate the UK’s future trade partnership and its future investment relationship with Japan at the same time, as one agreement—another question posed by the hon. Member for Stone and by my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich—or will the separate EU-only trade agreement constrain the UK’s ability to negotiate and conclude an integrated trade and investment agreement? The House will be rightly concerned that the Government have simultaneously inserted into the Trade Bill sweeping Henry VIII powers to implement such a future trade agreement without any proper scrutiny or oversight. Will the Minister confirm that no such investment chapters will be included in any future trade agreement with Japan?

Let me be clear: Labour would like to see a trade agreement with Japan. We have an incredibly strong trade and investment relationship between our two countries, and we believe that we can continue to build on that. We want a positive, dynamic relationship that elevates standards, boosts opportunities to benefit from advances in technology and research and development, and continues to support growth and investment in our high-tech manufacturing sectors and world-class services sector. But we cannot be expected to rely on this Government’s quiet promises alone, and it is imperative that Parliament has the proper opportunity to scrutinise and debate these trade agreements well in advance of their being signed.

It is worth noting that this deal has yet even to go through the full scrutiny process in the EU, with INTA—the Committee on International Trade—not scheduled to hold a public inquiry until 9 and 10 July and the European Parliament scheduled to vote on whether to give consent to the agreement in December. If the motion before us is voted through, it will allow Ministers to endorse the agreement without proper scrutiny by the House, and even before the full scrutiny process of the European Union has been properly applied. That sets a dangerous precedent for future trade agreements and makes a mockery of the idea that any future trade agreements to which the Trade Bill applies will have received proper scrutiny by this House.