Concern about climate impacts of the Asia-Pacific trade partnership

Posted on June 22, 2021
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The UK Government has begun negotiations to join a free trade alliance with Asia-Pacific countries, also known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The Government has published its position today and here is our statement and analysis of what we know so far.

Ruth Bergan, Senior Adviser of the Trade Justice Movement said:

"Given the very small economic gains from the Asia-Pacific trade partnership, it is surprising to see the UK signing up to a deal that could tie its hands on climate action, especially in the year that we host COP26.

“The UK's own assessment predicts an overall increase in emissions as a result of the free trade deal. Although these increases are predicted to be small, it is nevertheless a step in the wrong direction. As with all other areas of economic activity, the UK should be shaping trade deals so that they are part of the solution.

“For example, it is disappointing that the UK is not sending a clear signal that it is going to exclude ISDS, which is so damaging for climate goals or on flexibility in patent rules so that climate-friendly technology can be shared around the world as quickly as possible.

“There is also no ambition to build on the UK-EU agreement where climate was included as an 'essential element' of the deal. The UK is missing a huge opportunity to be a global leader in this area."


Analysis of the CPTPP impact assessment:

The UK Government impact assessment predicts benefits of just £1.8 billion or 0.08% of GDP, and only after 15 years of UK membership. Given the tiny economic benefits to the UK, it is worth considering what the trade offs are, and especially what the implications are for UK climate policy. The UK's outline 'strategy approach' and impact assessment suggest the following:

1. As with the majority of trade deals, membership of the CPTPP is predicted to increase emissions, both in terms of UK domestic production and from other countries. The assessment also notes that the distance between the UK and CPTPP members is likely to mean increased emissions from transport.

2. The assessment notes that UK consumption of fossil fuels is also likely to increase as a result of the deal.

3. CPTPP contains investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions. This is a corporate court mechanism that allows companies to sue countries for policy changes that reduce the profitability of their investments. It is being used to challenge important climate action such as the phase out of coal-fired power stations. Although ISDS is not in the UK-Australia deal and is likely to be excluded from the New Zealand deal, the UK does not exclude the possibility of signing up to ISDS in CPTPP.

4. CPTPP contains far-reaching intellectual property provisions that could make it harder to share climate technology so that all countries can quickly decarbonise their economies. Instead of proposing ways to amend them, the UK simply states its support for the provisions. This is at odds with one of the IPCCC's core messages that technology transfer will be key to halting runaway climate change.

5. The document reference environment provisions in the CPTPP. Although these go further than in some other deals, they remain largely voluntary and rely on a committee system that has no teeth.


For more information please contact Catherine Callens, Senior Communications Adviser on catherine@tjm.org.uk


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