EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

Part of Food Advertising (Protection of Children from Targeting) – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 26th June 2018.

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Photo of Craig Mackinlay Craig Mackinlay Conservative, South Thanet 3:45 pm, 26th June 2018

I support any measures that reduce tariffs, accept others’ standards and reduce non-tariff barriers. Sadly, the EU, in its usual way, has agreed to accept only international standards and has refused to accept good-quality domestic standards in Japan and elsewhere.

The economic partnership agreement is an EU-only agreement. We are discussing it today with the help of my hon. Friend Sir William Cash, but it does not really matter to us. I tried to assist Barry Gardiner in making that point. He may have problems with the deal, but in the world in which he might like to live in future, we would not be discussing the deal at all because we would be held up on the tails of a future customs union or the customs union.

It is sad that it has taken seven years to get to where we are—the agreement will not come into force for another year. That timeline shows the sclerotic nature of EU negotiations. I very much look forward to the time when our Government can negotiate such deals with Japan and others as an independent sovereign nation.

Whatever grumbles I have about how we got here, the benefits of the agreement are clear. Japan is the third-largest global economy. Given the size of our economies—Britain is the fifth or sixth-largest, depending on what measure we prefer—trade between us is very much under-weighted. We export more to Sweden, which is an economy of just 10 million people. We export more to Qatar, which is an economy of just 2.5 million people. We import more from Norway, which has just 5 million people, than we import from Japan, which has 127 million people.

The economic partnership agreement will increase that trade, which is currently virtually in balance at about £14 billion either way. Estimates show that the agreement will increase bilateral trade—UK trade to Japan—by up to £5 billion. I believe that to be an underestimation of what can be achieved.

I welcome the deal as a step forward in liberalising global trade, but the deals I want our Secretary of State to do over the coming years are with developing nations. I want our consumer pound to be spent helping developing countries to trade towards prosperity, and I want our consumers to benefit from low global prices, free of protectionist EU tariffs.

I support the agreement and look forward to more as we take control of our tariff schedules and become a global force for free trade. The world is sadly in danger of descending back into protectionism, whether directly through tariffs or through non-tariff barriers. I tried to intervene on the hon. Member for Brent North. I need to impress upon him and others that this deal and others like it, any rollover deals or future beneficial deals around the world will not be achievable if we stay in a customs union or the customs union. We need to be free of that and to behave like a normal independent country again. I look forward to the Secretary of State making future excellent deals for the benefit of our nation.