Civil society groups call for the UK to halt accession to Pacific trade deal

Posted on March 31, 2023
Secretary of State for International Trade Kemi Badenoch and Minister of International Trade Mary Ng meet to discuss UK's accession to CPTPP (14 March 2023)

UK civil society groups criticise the UK for joining a trade pact with few benefits and many risks, including environmental concerns.

Following news of the UK’s agreement in principle for accession to the Pacific trade deal (CPTPP), nine civil society groups have signed a letter calling for a halt to the accession process. The letter calls for the UK to rethink its approach to trade to align with action on the environment, human rights and sustainable development.

The groups raise a range of issues with the Pacific deal including increasing climate emissions, risks to UK farmers and food standards and an investor protector mechanism that puts taxpayer money at risk.

Ruth Bergan, Director of the Trade Justice Movement said: “The UK’s decision to accede to the CPTPP is yet another example of the UK measuring success by the number of trade agreements. Too little thought has been given to how these agreements line up with crucial aims such as tackling climate change and achieving the sustainable development goals.

“The UK’s own impact assessment predicts negligible economic benefits from accession yet estimates that greenhouse gas emissions will increase as a result of the deal. We also hear that the UK has agreed to relax rules on palm oil that could have serious consequences for rainforests and animals like orangutans.

“Despite all of these concerns, we no longer have any faith that the Government will deliver a robust scrutiny process. The Government made repeated promises that parliament would have an opportunity to debate new trade deals, yet during the passage of the Australia deal, none was given that would have allowed parliament to oppose it. What’s more, the Pacific deal comes as MPs with seven years’ experience of scrutinising trade deals lose their positions, leaving only inexperienced MPs to consider this significant deal.”

The UK’s accession to the Agreement was announced on Thursday 30 March. The agreement has broad coverage, including provisions on the flow of goods and services between members, rules on intellectual property, government procurement, data flows and much more. The deal was set up in 2018 between eleven countries. The UK already has bilateral trade agreements in force with seven of the eleven CPTPP members, and further agreements with two members that are signed but not yet in force.

The nine civil society groups that signed the letter are the Trade Justice Movement, ActionAid UK, RSPCA, Fair Trade Wales, PAN UK, Sustain, Global Justice Now, Just Treatment and Compassion in World Farming UK.

Read the letter to Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade.


Image: Secretary of State for International Trade Kemi Badenoch and Minister of International Trade Mary Ng meet to discuss UK's accession to CPTPP (14 March 2023). Credit: Twitter from @mary_ng.