Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (Accession)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:46 pm on 17th June 2020.

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Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities 1:46 pm, 17th June 2020

Today’s launch of trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand is an historic moment for this country. When we left the EU, we did so on the promise of trading more with friends and allies across the world. Deals with Australia and New Zealand are a powerful expression of our new-found independence and our intent to build a global Britain. I say to our old friends: Britain is back. These agreements will strengthen ties with like-minded countries who share our values and our commitment to free trade. They will create more opportunities for British businesses and more choice for British consumers, and provide us with greater economic security. Strategically, they will also help us to forge closer economic ties with the wider Pacific region.

The foundations for both deals are strong. We already have close ties in areas such as cars, steel, services, and food and drink, and 31,000[This section has been corrected on 24 June 2020, column 4MC — read correction] small businesses export to Australia. One in every five bottles of wine drunk in Britain comes from Australia. Free trade deals can build on those successes, boosting UK exports to both countries by around £1 billion. They will also show the rest of the world that Britain is prepared to defend and advance the ideals of free trade and freedom.

Deals with Australia and New Zealand are a key step towards membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the largest free trade agreements in the world. Along with Japan, with whom we launched trade negotiations last week, both Australia and New Zealand support our membership, and today we have formally announced our intention to pursue accession to the agreement. We do so for three reasons. First, we do so to secure more trade and investment, to help our economy to overcome the challenges posed by coronavirus. Hitching ourselves to the fastest-growing part of the world will help to deliver on the growth and prosperity we urgently need. Secondly, it will help to diversify our trade and supply chains, to make our economy more resilient and open up new export opportunities in industries such as tech and digital, food and drink, and automotive. Thirdly, it is an important part of our strategy to turn the UK into a global trading hub. We want to put the UK at the centre of a network of modern free trade agreements.

CPTPP is a high-standards agreement, spanning four continents. Its members are 11 like-minded nations, all of whom believe in the principles of free trade, international co-operation and the rules-based system. Our trade with individual CPTPP countries is already worth more than £110 billion. By joining the agreement, we can open up even more opportunities for our go-getting businesses and turbo-charge trade and investment. Membership will help us to sell more British buses to Mexico, more life-saving antibiotics to Vietnam and more medical technology to Peru, and, of course, it will help us to export more of our world-class food and drink, including more Welsh lamb to Japan and Scotch whisky to Canada.

We firmly believe membership will support all UK businesses, not least the small businesses who have suffered most during coronavirus. Access to the agreements dedicated SME chapter will ease barriers to trade for small businesses by cutting tariffs and reducing red tape. It will give thousands of businesses access to this most dynamic group of markets and couple Britain to one of the most vibrant economic regions in the world. We have already explored membership with all 11 countries, in line with CPTPP’s accession process, and we are now moving to the formal stage.

At a time of unprecedented global upheaval, now is the time to look out to the world, not turn our backs on it. It is a time to be ambitious and seek trade deals with nations who share our values and our commitment to free trade. Agreements with New Zealand and Australia and are an important step towards our vision of a truly global Britain—a Britain that is once again a fierce campaigner for free trade; a Britain that leads by example. Membership of CPTPP is the next logical step. Joining the agreement would show the rest of the world that we are back as a proud, independent nation, prepared to look far beyond our own shores. I commend this statement to the House.