Briefings TJM Briefing: Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for a Trans-Pacific Partnership

READING TIME 30 mins mins

TJM Briefing: Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for a Trans-Pacific Partnership

On March 31st the UK announced that it had reached an agreement with existing member states to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). However the CPTPP is unlikely to deliver for important domestic and international objectives because:

  • The prospective economic gains from joining the bloc are tiny. Accession is estimated to add 0.08%, to UK GDP “in the long run”, the equivalent of £27.73, or around ten cups of coffee, per person per year.
  • The UK already has bilateral deals with nine of the eleven CPTPP member states, it is unclear to what extent the CPTPP adds value beyond these deals.
  • The UK is joining an existing deal, with very limited ability to amend it to reflect UK priorities.
  • CPTPP could undermine the UK’s commitments on climate change. The deal will increase climate emissions and the UK has acceded to Malaysia’s demand to lower tariffs on palm oil to zero.
  • UK farming standards could come under pressure from accession to this agreement. UK pesticide standards could be undermined: 119 pesticides are allowed for use in one or more CPTPP members that have been banned in the UK.
  • The UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is viewed as a precedent for UK commitments under CPTPP, and countries including Canada and Mexico have therefore been seeking zero tariffs on agricultural goods, increasing the detrimental impact for UK farming.
  • Priorities for developing countries have been sidelined in CPTPP. It contains provisions such as a requirement to sign up to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV91), to investment liberalisation and protection and to liberalise government procurement which developing countries have long resisted.
  • CPTPP includes countries with poor records on human rights, including Brunei, Mexico and Vietnam with only weak provisions on labour rights in the deal itself.
  • The impacts of provisions in areas such as agriculture and procurement are deeply gendered, potentially pushing women, who are the majority of small-scale, subsistence farmers, to compete against large scale agribusiness, and posing a threat to the provision of freely accessible public services.
  • CPTPP contains ISDS mechanisms and the UK has agreed to apply these provisions with all but two member countries, significantly increasing opportunities for investors to challenge government policy making, particularly those from the UK, Japan and Canada.
  • It is unlikely that the agreement will be subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny. The precedent for this was set by the passage of the UK-Australia FTA. Despite assurances that agreements were unlikely to pass without a debate in parliament, no debate was given during the time allotted under the Constitutional Reform and Governance (CRaG) Act.

For the above reasons, TJM is calling for the UK to halt the accession process to the CPTPP. We believe that the UK should rethink its approach to trade so that UK policy is fully aligned with commitments on human rights, gender equality, climate, the environment and the SDGs and overhaul its processes for public engagement and parliamentary scrutiny.


CPTPP FTA climate change food standards