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This briefing has been prepared for the report stage of the Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [HL] (Bill 153 2023-24) in the House of Commons on 19 March 2024.

It provides background to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and UK’s accession to this agreement. It summarises the Bill’s main clauses and proceedings in the House of Lords and the Commons second reading and committee stage.

Joining the CPTPP

The UK has agreed to join the CPTPP, an Asia-Pacific trade bloc of 11 other countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The Government believes the accession will bring a range of trade benefits by lowering trade barriers with a dynamic region expected to become increasingly significant for the world economy. In 2022, the UK exported £64.7 billion of goods and services to the CPTPP countries (7.8% of the UK total) and imported £53.7 billion (6.0%). The accession also supports the Government’s geostrategic pivot towards the Indo-Pacific region.

The economic benefits of joining CPTPP appear to be small. The Government’s impact assessment indicated the long-run increase in GDP would be £2 billion (or 0.06%) but could be higher if other countries, such as South Korea, join the bloc. Civil society groups have also raised concerns about a number of issues including the environment and animal welfare.

To complete the accession process, the Bill makes limited, mainly technical changes to domestic law to make it compliant with the CPTPP.

Contents of the Bill

The Bill has eight clauses and one schedule. It has a narrow focus on changing domestic law in relation to technical barriers to trade, government procurement and intellectual property rights.

Technical barriers to trade

The Bill would amend the law on Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) which deal with testing certification and inspection of goods. It would ensure that CABs established in CPTPP countries are treated no less favourably than UK’s domestic CABs and may assess if goods for exports comply with UK legal requirements.

Government procurement

The Bill would ensure certain types of public authority contracts are opened to suppliers of CPTPP countries. This would ensure their fair and non-discriminatory treatment on a par with domestic suppliers. To achieve this, the Bill would make some technical changes to the UK procurement legal framework.

Intellectual property

The Bill would make provisions in relation to geographical indications (GIs) and performers’ rights. Geographical indications are trade marks to identify a product as coming from a particular location and signifying its quality or reputation linked to that location. The Bill would ensure an interested person can oppose an application to register a GI of an agri-food product in certain circumstances. It would also permit the cancellation of GI in certain circumstances.

The Bill would also expand the eligibility criteria for rights in performances so that a performance is eligible for protection in UK law.

Territorial extent

The Bill would extend to the whole of the UK, subject to certain limitations regarding procurement. Provisions relating to conformity assessment and geographical indications would not apply in Northern Ireland.

For this Bill, the UK Government is seeking legislative consent from the Senedd Cymru, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly in relation to matters which fall within their competence. The Scottish Parliament has granted its consent.

Bill’s proceedings in the House of Lords

The Bill passed its Lords stages with one government technical amendment.

Members from across the House of Lords welcomed the UK joining the CPTPP and agreed on its geo-strategic importance.

Conservative peers stressed the future export growth potential of the Asian market while opposition members drew attention to the limited economic impact of the UK’s accession. They debated the perceived risks goods imported from CPTPP countries could pose to the UK agricultural sector if produced to lower food and animal welfare standards.

Beyond the technical focus of the Bill, opposition and backbench members’ key concerns included the UK retaining the investor-state dispute settlement provisions (ISDS), the effects of CPTPP on trade with developing countries, labour rights and environmental issues. Peers called upon the Government to focus on making the agreement work for businesses.

The Minister for Investment, Lord Johnson said the Government will facilitate a general debate on CPTPP in Parliament.

One government amendment was agreed to without division at report stage. This was a minor technical amendment on geographical indications.

Bill’s proceedings in the House of Commons

Second reading

The second reading of the Bill took place in the House of Commons on 29 January 2024. The Labour Party supported the UK joining CPTPP and recognised its benefits. The SNP did not support the CPTPP accession. The Bill was granted a second reading without a vote.

During the second reading opposition parties raised concerns about various issues including ISDS provisions in CPTPP and potential imports of agrifoods produced to lower animal welfare and environmental standards than permissible in the UK. The Secretary of State reiterated the UK will “never compromise” on these standards and will continue to regulate them.

Committee stage

For the Public Bill Committee, the Opposition tabled seven amendments and seven new clauses. The Committee completed the Bill’s scrutiny on 20 February 2024. No amendments were made.

Debates on amendments in committee focussed on the scrutiny of CPTPP conformity assessment bodies which would assess products before they are exported to the UK market.

MPs debated the impact of the Bill’s procurement provisions on the environment, employment and industry, and the UK’s developing country trading partners.

The Opposition proposed further consultation and impact assessment of provisions on geographical indications, and a review of lessons learned from the negotiation and implementation of the CPTPP intellectual property chapter.

The Government said it intended to produce a biennial monitoring report on the effects of CPTPP membership and an evaluation report after five years.

The Opposition also proposed to delay the entry into force of clause 5 on performers’ rights to allow time to consider the outcome of a consultation on extending public performance rights to foreign nationals.

It further proposed that the Government review the financial risk of implementing the ISDS provisions of the Investment chapter.

Labour Shadow Ministers urged the Government to prepare a revised impact assessment setting out its current expectation of economic benefits of CPTPP.

MPs asked the Government to ensure there would be a debate on CPTPP. The Government has said it would provide for a debate depending on parliamentary time. No debate has been scheduled so far.

Parliament’s role in making treaties

The UK Government has prerogative powers to negotiate and conclude international agreements. However, several steps must be taken before the government can formally ratify an agreement and it can enter into force. Some agreements may require changes to domestic law and these have to be agreed by Parliament. This Bill does this for CPTPP.

Besides passing implementing legislation, Parliament will formally scrutinise trade agreements under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRAG), and has power to delay the ratification of an agreement. On 19 February 2024, the Government laid CPTPP before Parliament under the CRAG Act procedure. The objection period ends on 22 March.

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