The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership - CPTPP
There is a lot of noise, spin and PR around the UK signing to join the CPTPP. Since leaving the EU, it has been vital we sign trade deals to replace the loss of trade and damage caused to the UK economy, that most accept is damaging our economy.
That said, politicians make choices not just decisions, and those choices tend to be based on their political / party ideology not what’s best of the country and people.
The Conservatives choice to join the CPTPP is a clear confirmation of their vision and plan for Britain. A choice to increase the wealth of a minority of people and service sectors, whilst reducing protections for the majority of consumers, businesses and agri-foods producers. As well as ditching commitments to environmental standards and protections.
The UK government has already faced criticism from the farming industry over its post-Brexit deals with Australia and New Zealand. In the CPTPP they appear to be protecting British farmers more, in the short term. BUT - the deal says ‘increased access to the UK market for sensitive agricultural produce will be staged over a significant period of time, giving producers in sensitive sectors time to adjust to any new trade flows’, which remains concerning.
When you consider that joining the CPTPP was so contentious in the US, that it united Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders in opposition to it, that’s saying something!
In signing this deal - likely to only boost GDP by 0.08% - over about 10 years’ – according to the government’s own estimates – the Conservatives have confirmed their vision for Britain and the trade-offs they are prepared to make on behalf of all of us.
Remember that the cost of Brexit to the British economy is 4% minimum, we only need another 50 deals like the CPTPP to make up for the economic damage that Brexit has done to the UK.
Taking Back Control
Far from taking back control, we’ve handed huge swathes of power to big corporates who can sue our government in secretive courts for treating them ‘unfairly’. In Canada, one of the members of the CPTPP, we’ve already seen corporate courts aggressively being used to challenge govt climate rules - with 64 cases against govts.
A Canadian company is suing Biden’s administration for $15bn for cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline which would have resulted in devasting environmental effects if it were to go ahead.
For anyone worried about greedy, globalist corporations – this deal gives corporate lobbyists permanent powers to force governments to lower standards over time.
The UK is also signing up to the principle that the burden of proof of a product to demonstrate that it is safe – is with the producer - self-certification! This is a far cry from the idea of setting our own rules.
Trashing Our Environmental Commitments
In signing this deal – the government has trashed the deforestation pledges they made at the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow. We have given in to Malaysia and agreed to lower environmental standards – for example scrapping tariffs on palm oil, which is a major driver of deforestation, threatens biodiversity and threatens the survival of orangutans – especially in Malaysia.
Not to mention the higher environmental costs of doing business halfway around the world, rather than with our neighbours.
There is expected to be pressure from other members for the UK to accept foods produced in an environmentally unfriendly manner, using pesticides outlawed in the UK, and antibiotics in livestock farming. Instead of saying ‘let them eat cake’, the Tories say, ‘let them eat hormone-treated beef’.
Service Sectors Will Do Well
The UK already sells more services than goods to CPTPP members, worth £31.9b, including £2.3b in business services such as auditing, accounting, and legal services to Australia, £1.3b in transportation services to Singapore, and £1.4b in insurance services to Canada. This is set to increase across all services, especially financial services. In terms of inward investment and jobs, in 2021, the level of investment from CPTPP countries into the UK was £182b or 9% of the total UK inward investment. But this only supported the creation of just 5,000 new jobs in 2021/2022.
Parliamentary sovereignty is the cornerstone of our British democracy yet that is being eroded when it comes to proper scrutiny of treaties like the CPTPP.
On 22 March the government abolished the International Trade Committee (ITC), and the passing of responsibility for scrutiny to a newly renamed Business and Trade Committee, which raises significant new concerns over Parliament’s already opaque, inadequate, limited trade scrutiny processes when it comes to free trade agreements (FTAs) and other treaties. The ITC played a vital role in holding government to account, particularly during the ratification of the first post-Brexit FTA with Australia.
In terms of the CPTPP, the Committee has been taking evidence and building expertise on CPTPP for the last eighteen months. Not only is this now all gone but the proposed new ‘Business and Trade Committee’ will have even fewer powers. These changes raise alarming questions for trade scrutiny and democracy.
True & Fair believes it is imperative that Parliament can thoroughly scrutinise FTAs and other treaties due to effects negotiations and deals have on peoples’ lives and livelihoods, wider society, and the environment. Any new government must put in place structures to ensure that trade agreements and their implications are properly scrutinised. At present there are significant new concerns over the UK's already opaque, inadequate trade scrutiny processes.
Does Joining the CPTPP Mean the UK Can Never Rejoin the EU
The remaining hardcore Brexiteers are jubilant as they think joining the CPTPP makes rejoining the EU impossible. That by reducing regulations we would drift further away from EU standards for goods and because the UK would be unable to rejoin the EU’s customs union while still a member of the CPTPP.
A very bizarre claim because the UK is a sovereign independent nation joining the CPTTP. As we did with the EU, this means we can leave the CPTPP any time we choose. If we want to say, ‘join the EU single market’, Parliament, which is sovereign, can legislate that we adopt or copy EU regulations.
Unless Brexiteers are making the very odd argument that the CPTPP is a permanent supranational government, it is impossible to leave. Then we would permanently lose our sovereignty, and ability to act in our own best interests, our political leaders always have the choice of who to leave or join.
Only time will tell – but the prices we will pay as ordinary citizens could be very high indeed.
Overview of the Differences Between the CPTPP and the EU
- Scope and membership: CPTPP is a free trade agreement among 11 countries, primarily in the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The EU is a political and economic union of 27 European countries that aims to promote economic integration, political cooperation, and social progress among its members.
- Economic integration: The CPTPP focuses mainly on trade liberalisation, reducing tariffs, and easing regulatory barriers among member countries. The agreement also addresses intellectual property rights, labour, and environmental standards. In contrast, EU membership involves much deeper economic integration, including a single market, a customs union, and a common currency (the Euro) for 19 of the 27 member countries. The EU also coordinates economic and fiscal policies among its members.
- Political influence: The EU is a supranational organisation that includes a comprehensive system of governance and institutions, such as the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Court of Justice. EU membership comes with a degree of shared sovereignty, and member countries participate in shaping policies and regulations at the EU level. The CPTPP, on the other hand, is a trade agreement with no political union or shared institutions. While it does have a dispute settlement mechanism, its political influence is limited compared to the EU.
- Social implications: EU membership involves adherence to common social policies, labour standards, and human rights commitments. The EU has a comprehensive framework for protecting citizens' rights, such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The CPTPP does include some labour and environmental provisions, but its social commitments are not as extensive as those of the EU.
- Geopolitical considerations: The CPTPP is a trade bloc that aims to counterbalance China's growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region. It offers member countries economic benefits and strengthens their trade relations with other countries in the bloc. The EU, on the other hand, represents a major political and economic power in the global landscape. EU membership offers countries political influence and access to a large single market, which can be beneficial for economic growth and development.
- Investment: The EU's single market and regulatory harmonisation attracted foreign direct investment (FDI) into the UK. As a CPTPP member, the UK could still receive FDI, but the level is very unlikely to be as high, as the CPTPP does not offer the same depth of regulatory harmonisation and access to skilled labour as the EU. In 2021, the level of investment from all CPTPP member countries in the UK was around £182 billion, accounting for about 9% of the total UK inward investment. This investment only supported the creation of 5,000 new jobs in 2021/2022
- Access to skilled labour: The free movement of people within the EU allowed the UK to access a large pool of skilled workers from other member countries. This facilitated business growth, innovation, and competitiveness. The CPTPP does not offer the same level of labour mobility, which would impact the UK's ability to attract and retain talent.
In summary, CPTPP membership offers member countries trade liberalisation and economic benefits, whereas EU membership involves deeper economic integration, political cooperation, and social commitments. The UK government’s choice between the two is proof of the Conservatives’ priorities and long-term goals.