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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:52 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 1:52 pm, 17th June 2020

I am not surprised that the right hon. Lady is trying to do down our efforts to secure trade agreements with the vast majority of the world and join some of the most exciting free-trade areas in existence, because the Opposition refused even to support trade deals with Canada and Japan when we were members of the EU. She talked about a continuity agreement, but she did not even support signing it in the first place. Only the Labour party could call low value a trade area where the UK has £100 billion-worth of trade. I do not know what mathematics or economics that relates to, but it is certainly none with which I am familiar.

Let me be clear with the right hon. Lady. The deal of which we would be part with CPTPP goes much further than the existing roll-over agreements that countries such as Canada have with the EU. For example, CPTPP has an advanced digital and data chapter. The UK is a data and digital superpower. We are third in the world for the number of billion-dollar tech companies, after the US and China. CPTPP has an advanced digital and data chapter to which the EU would not sign up. That chapter gives us access to that in Canada, Mexico, Peru and Chile across the agreement.

This agreement removes 95% of tariffs—again, going further than many of the roll-over agreements. We are talking about joining one of the most advanced trade agreement areas in the world. The measure goes far beyond what the EU was willing or able to agree, which is a huge opportunity for the UK. It is completely wrong to suggest that this is about Malaysia and Brunei, although I do not deprecate Malaysia, which is a fast-growing market and a good trade opportunity for the UK.

To say that CPTPP is simply equivalent to the deals that the EU is negotiating with those nations betrays a lack of understanding of the text of these trade agreements. I am very happy to share with the right hon. Lady the additional chapters in question.

The right hon. Lady suggested that I will close all these trade deals in the next six months, and I am very flattered by her belief in my superhuman power to do so. I have not said that we are going to close all the trade deals we are negotiating in the next six months. For example, we have set no timetable on a United States trade deal, so it is simply not true to say that we have a target of closing all of them in the next six months.

We will do deals that are good for Britain, and we will be prepared to walk away if we do not get what the UK wants. For example, the national health service is not on the table and the price we pay for drugs is not on the table. [Interruption.] The right hon. Lady has asked me a series of questions, and she might listen to the answers, rather than chatting to her colleague on the Front Bench, Bill Esterson.

I am very clear that we will not lower our food import standards. We have an excellent independent agency, the Food Standards Agency. As part of the withdrawal agreement, all of our import standards, including those on chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef, will be on the UK statute book, and it would take a vote in Parliament to overturn them. We are not negotiating that as part of any of these trade agreements. It is simply scaremongering from the right hon. Lady.

We have a huge opportunity here to forge a new future for global Britain, and we are not going to listen to the scaremongering and negativity from the Labour party. We are going to take those opportunities, and we are going to move forward.