Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [Lords] Debate

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Department: Department for Business and Trade

Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [Lords]

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Liam Fox Portrait Sir Liam Fox
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My right hon. Friend is entirely right. As I observed at the time, President Clinton took the view that the treaty was the best hope that the west had of pulling China into a much more market-orientated, rules-based economy, where we could gain the benefits of a more liberal, global economy, but that is not how it turned out. We have had only one multilateral treaty since the WTO was created, the 2017 trade facilitation agreement.

There is a hierarchy of agreements that we can secure in terms of liberalisation. A multilateral agreement is the best, but given the effective veto that countries have, that is unlikely, and it is very unlikely to give us the benefits that we would like to see, especially the liberalisation of trade in services. The next best is a plurilateral agreement, the next best after that is a regional agreement, and then we are down to what some people would unkindly describe as the bargain basement of bilateral FTAs. All those are useful in creating a more liberal global trading environment. However, if China were to seek to join the CPTPP, it would need to commit itself to liberalisation in line with CPTPP requirements, which would require a reduced role for the Chinese state. If anyone who keeps an eye on current affairs thinks that the Chinese state is tending in the direction of a smaller influence, they are watching different news outlets from the ones that I am watching.

China could, of course, seek a bespoke agreement to join the CPTPP, but the UK has already set the precedent by joining on current terms. Even if China could join the CPTPP, could it be trusted to meet any of the conditions of accession? Although Chinese leaders have declared their willingness to meet the conditions, many countries are extremely sceptical, given China’s behaviour as a WTO member. China has a poor record when it comes to complying with WTO rules and observing the fundamental principles of non-discrimination, openness, reciprocity, fairness and transparency on which the WTO agreements are based. China’s subsidies over capacity, intellectual property theft and protectionist non-market policies exacerbate distortions in the global economy, and—even more worryingly—China’s use of trade as a tool of coercive diplomacy has raised concerns further, especially given its behaviour towards Australia and Japan. This is not the sort of partner we should be wishing to join us in the CPTPP, unless there are previously unimagined changes in behaviour.

Finally, a word, if I may, beyond this Chamber to our US colleagues: I believe that the decision to leave the CPTPP by the United States was a mistake. It removed from United States policymakers a tool in its strategic ability to shape events in the region. UK accession provides an opportunity for the United States to seek to join this new grouping and gain greater direct influence over China trade relations with the fastest growing economic zone in the world. These are all reasons why we must keep a very close eye on what happens with China and our new membership of the CPTPP. We have gained a great deal; we cannot afford to have it thrown away, by ourselves or by others.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to a maiden speech; I call Damien Egan.

Damien Egan Portrait Damien Egan (Kingswood) (Lab)
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It is with great pleasure that I rise to give my maiden speech as we speak to this Bill, which aims to boost international trade and economic growth. Stimulating growth and trade is vital to my constituents in Kingswood, as it creates new jobs and is ultimately about how we fund our public services.

As is traditional in a maiden speech, I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Chris Skidmore. I learnt during the campaign that there was a reason why Chris’s votes would go up every time he stood for election. Throughout the by-election campaign, people talked very warmly about Chris; he was described as being “a good man” and someone driven by values—a double-edged sword, some might say—but perhaps most importantly as someone who cared. I heard about some really complicated pieces of casework, where Chris had personally given a lot of his time to get people the help they needed, so I would like to place on record my thanks to Chris for his 14 years of service to the people of Kingswood.

Kingswood had four MPs before Chris. Roger Berry was a tireless campaigner—in fact, he still is—for disability rights. He brought forward the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill in 1993, which galvanised support for future legislation that made discrimination against disabled people illegal. Kingswood’s three other MPs were Rob Hayward, Jack Aspinwall and Terry Walker. On my second day here, when I got into my office, the first letter I received was from Terry Walker. If you are listening, Terry, thank you.

I have been asked by some Members, “So where exactly is Kingswood?” Kingswood lies on the eastern side of Bristol, and I would say that more people than not would say that they live in Bristol. It is a suburban collection of towns and villages that stretches from the edge of the city and extends into beautiful countryside.

Kingswood has an interesting story. In medieval times it served as a royal hunting ground: quite literally, the King’s wood. In the 18th century it was a thriving home for workers from nearby coalmines, and it was at that time that John Wesley was encouraged to deliver his very first outdoor sermons—in Kingswood. I must be one of thousands of children over the years who at primary school was taken to the site of those sermons, Hanham Mount, where today a spiring green beacon illuminates the spot where Wesley once preached.

In the early 20th century, Kingswood hosted the largest motorbike factory in the world, the Douglas motorbike factory, where 25,000 motorbikes were made to support the military in world war one. In one of those quirky bits of history—this did catch me out in a radio interview—legend has it that Kingswood hosted an elephant burial when Nancy, who was part of a travelling menagerie, died of yew leaf poisoning. I am told that archaeologists are investigating.

Being elected in a by-election towards the end of a Parliament does focus the mind; you have to think about making your moments count. Indeed, Rishi could still call a surprise election tomorrow! So I thought, Mr Speaker, that as well as giving you a little bit of information about Kingswood itself, I would also share what the people of Kingswood told me during the campaign, which I hope includes issues that are pertinent to all Members, whichever party in this Chamber they represent.

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None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Let us remain in the south-west. I call Anthony Mangnall.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall
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It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Kingswood (Damien Egan), and may I congratulate him on his maiden speech? It is somewhat frustrating, as one of the younger Members on the Conservative side of the House, to find new Members turning up who look fresher, healthier and readier for the fight. He also managed to unify the House when talking about potholes; I do not think he will find any disagreement on that subject. He comes to this place with a huge amount of experience, not just from fighting other seats, but having been Mayor of Lewisham, where he did extraordinary work on community land trusts that Members from across the House have commented on and would like to follow in our constituencies. I am sure that his family are somewhere in the Gallery and will be proud of his maiden speech. He has done very well.

I would like to make a few remarks about CPTPP, the tongue-twister that seems to have made many Members of this place fall sideways. We should start by recognising what the United Kingdom has managed to do over the last four years. We have recognised the global ambition of fulfilling our trade objectives. We have succeeded in joining CPTTP, but we have also secured deals with Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, as well as joining the Singapore digital partnership. I spend my life repeating the fact that we have made those deals; it is important that we recognise their true value, not just to GDP, but to businesses, the economy, the environment and business people across the United Kingdom and, indeed, the world. It shows that we are determined to fulfil our promise and commitment to sign deals to bolster our position in the world. Of course, negotiations are also under way with the Gulf Co-operation Council, Israel and others.

In joining CPTTP, we are signing a deal with the fastest-growing region in the world. Now that we have tariff-free trade relations, the UK is set to increase trade with the countries in CPTTP by £37 billion by 2030. It is a market worth £110 billion to UK trade. With growth at 8% between 2016 and 2019, UK membership is only expected to boost that figure. Conservative figures—I say “conservative” because I feel that they are underestimates—suggest that there will be a £1.8 billion increase to GDP and an £800 million boost to take-home pay for workers. Additionally, estimates are that trade with the 11 members will increase by an average of 65%, with the west midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland benefiting most, so I look forward to hearing the SNP’s point of view, and whether it will support the Bill.

As has already been mentioned, the point of this deal is that it allows us to have tariff-free trade in goods. CPTPP has new product regulations, expands our role and opportunities for services, and ensures mobility for business people. Digital trade will be enhanced and intellectual property enshrined, with benchmarks created by the United Kingdom, and the CPTPP has sustainability at its core. However, I would like to focus my remarks on new clauses 1 and 4.

It has been my cause, war or campaign—however one wants to phrase it—over the last four years that Parliament should do better on our trade agreements. We should spend more time scrutinising and debating them. It is always a source of frustration that when we have debates on trade, so few people show up. The ability of this House to explain the value of a trade deal to our constituents, to justify its economic value and to talk about the potential security risk is diminished when we do not have opportunities on the Floor of the House to discuss the merits or demerits of any trade agreement.

I disagree with new clauses 1 and 4 not because I am being belligerent, or because the Whips have me under the cosh, but because we need to focus on reforming the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. Parliament cannot opine on every single international treaty. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) made a point about whether accession to CPTTP should be debated on the Floor of the House. There could be no limit to that, but he did not explain—I will let him intervene if he wants to—how he would get around the royal prerogative issue; international trade agreements are not in the hands of Parliament, but in the hands of Government Ministers. That was not considered in his remarks.