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Parliament must vote on Pacific trade deal before the UK joins, Committee says

19 February 2024

MPs on the Business and Trade Committee have called for the Government to allow lawmakers a debate and a vote on joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade bloc.

The Committee says MPs must have their say due to controversial aspects of joining the trade bloc – and the lack of clarity over the benefits of doing so.

The MPs conclude it is “difficult to estimate the potential benefits of CPTPP or its impact on economic growth”, especially as Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch has distanced herself from economic modelling produced by her own civil servants.

The Committee considered how CPTPP membership will affect UK safeguards concerning imports of controversial agri-food products. These include beef and pork treated with growth promoters (meat which is currently banned in the UK), agri-food products produced using pesticides that cannot be used in the UK and palm oil linked to deforestation.

MPs also heard about contentious CPTPP provisions allowing governments to be sued by foreign investors over actions that damage their profits – and claims that this part of the agreement could limit the UK Government’s ability to regulate or nationalise the English water industry.

The Committee notes that any debate and vote on the trade deal would need to take place during a period of just a few weeks when Parliament has the power to delay ratification of an international agreement by the Government.

Chair's comment

Business and Trade Committee Chair, Liam Byrne, said:

“If we want our economy to grow faster, we need to trade more. Today, the Government’s target of covering 80% of trade with free trade agreements is beyond reach and we are off-track to meet the target of £1 trillion of exports by 2030.  That is why CPTPP is important. But, for all its merits or drawbacks, if we’re serious about parliamentary sovereignty, Government must let MPs debate the deal and vote on it. 

“But if we want get serious about these debates, we need some hard-headed analysis of the economic benefits of the trade deals ministers propose to signs. It is simply not good enough for Secretaries of State to cast aside numbers produced by their own department, without providing their own figures.”

Further information

Image: UK Parliament/Tyler Allicock