Trans-Pacific trade bloc application: the NFU responds

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The NFU submits response to the House of Lords inquiry into the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Graduate Trainee in the EU exit and international trade team, Isabelle Rayner, summarises and looks at priorities for agriculture.

The Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss MP, recently announced that the UK has formally requested to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

High-welfare and climate-friendly farming

The NFU believes that any trade deal, which includes joining the CPTPP, should ensure that British farmers can continue to produce food to the current high standards. Our farmers are proud of the food we produce and should not be undermined by imports produced to standards that would be illegal here. We are confident that if UK farmers are allowed to compete on fair terms, we can lead the way when it comes to sustainable, high-welfare and climate-friendly farming.

The CPTPP

The CPTPP is not a single market and so doesn’t have uniform regulations or closely entwined economic policy across the member states. Its focus is on improving market access by removing trade barriers with the aim of getting rid of 95% of all tariffs between members.

The CPTPP has been in effect since December 2018 and is a trade bloc of eleven countries covering over 500 million people. The CPTPP consists of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. When combined, it accounts for 13.3% of world GDP, worth a total of US$10.6 trillion, and is the third-largest free-trade area in the world by gross domestic product (GDP).

The UK either already holds bilateral trade deals or is in live negotiation with nine of the eleven CPTPP members (Brunei and Malaysia being the two outstanding). Some of these countries are very competitive, major agriculture-exporting countries, so there is a concern that the cumulative impact could result in increased market access being given away by the UK government for our sensitive agricultural products.

Brand Britain

Currently, only 9% of the UK’s agricultural exports (2017-2019 average) are to the CPTPP members, so there is opportunity to grow our exports of high-quality UK produce, especially in the beef, sheep meat and dairy sectors. Food safety is a key consumer concern for many CPTPP members and especially the South-East Asian economies. In the UK, we can demonstrate safe, traceable, and audited food-supply chains, meaning ‘Brand Britain’ should have great potential.

Our response will be considered by Peers in the House of Lords as part of their inquiry into UK accession ahead of the trade negotiations, which are expected to start later in the year.

Member briefing

NFU members can read our full response here (NFU members will need to log in).