Richard Thomson – 2023 Speech on Conclusion of CPTPP Negotiations

The speech made by Richard Thomson, the SNP spokesperson on trade, in the House of Commons on 17 April 2023.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement. No matter how she tries to dress this up, the CPTPP will still be a low standards agreement that lacks adequate safeguards and represents a poor substitute for all the trade deals that we have left behind. If this represents the future, then it is no wonder that people in Scotland are looking for a different future in that regard.

Previous Ministers—including the previous Brexit Secretary, no less—failed to understand the important role that the port of Dover plays in UK imports and exports. I would not normally consider this necessary, but I feel that I may have to explain, for the benefit of some of the sedentary chunterers across the Chamber, that the Pacific is quite some distance away from the UK, which is why even the Government’s own forecasts are predicting that the UK emissions of greenhouse gases will increase as a result of this deal.

The deal threatens UK food standards because it could open the door to pesticides that are banned in the UK for health and environmental reasons. Worryingly, it also includes text about investor-state dispute settlement clauses, with all the implications that carries, and for absolutely what? The Minister can dance on the head of a pin about the difference between models and forecasts, but the deal is still a pale imitation of the trade deals that we have left behind, with the 4% hit to GDP from Brexit.

Why are the Government so desperate to agree a deal that carries so many risks for so few potential rewards? Where is the support for the domestic agrifood sector? Finally, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ActionAid, Fair Trade and the Trade Justice Movement all say that the deal makes a mockery of this Government’s sustainable trade goals. Are they wrong?

Kemi Badenoch

Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to apologise to our friends from Japan and Vietnam who had to listen to that diatribe, and to the hon. Gentleman calling this a low standards trade deal. It is just embarrassing and, frankly, really poor for diplomacy. This is a high standards deal. I know that it is a high standards deal because we went through agony in order to make sure that we could meet the high thresholds that the countries had set for us.

It is completely untrue to say that this deal lowers food standards. Food standards are not part of a free trade agreement. This is not the EU. We are not joining a political union. Our regulations stay in the UK. Fundamentally, that is something the SNP and other Members do not understand. We make the rules about our food standards. That means that if something does not meet UK food standards, it cannot be bought and sold into this country. What this deal is about is trade, not regulation. If Scotch whisky representatives and other Scottish exporters had to listen to what the hon. Gentleman had to say, I think they would be most incredibly disappointed. He does not understand trade. He is yet another person who has just read a press release from campaign groups and has not tested the arguments. I am very happy to stand at the Dispatch Box and rebut all that rubbish.