I thank the Secretary of State for her statement and for early sight of it. I agree with her that forging trade links with the wider Pacific region is a good thing to do. I would also say that membership of CPTPP, if we can join on the right terms, may help to claw back some of the enormous losses that will result from Brexit.
At its heart, however, the Secretary of State’s statement was little more than hopeful rhetoric about the UK’s future trade prospects, and those prospects are by no means certain, as is evidenced by the rather modest rise in Canadian exports to partner countries. Her statement did not tell us in any detail what is actually proposed to be discussed, and it does rather beggar belief that she did not see fit to report to the House the challenges, difficulties and sticking points that she foresees in future negotiations; nor, I suspect, has she given any comfort to those who raised many significant concerns over accession in the last consultation.
What limits will the Secretary of State set in her negotiations on lowering barriers to allow for greater market access for foreign services suppliers? What limits will she place on the removal or weakening of behind-the-border non-tariff barriers, and what about important things such as workers’ rights, product safety regulations and food quality standards? What action does she propose to ensure that the monitoring of partner countries adheres to core International Labour Organisation standards, and that freedom of association is allowed in partner countries? What action will she take to avoid product dumping via partner countries becoming a very real problem? How will she allay concerns over investor-state dispute settlement provisions reducing the Government’s ability to legislate? Unless and until those and many other concerns are fully and transparently addressed, huge anxiety will remain in the public about whether CPTPP is even right for the UK.