On 16 July, the UK officially signed the agreement to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The signing took place during the CPTPP Ministerial-level Commission meeting in Auckland, New Zealand.
According to latest data, the value of goods trade between Wales and CPTPP members was £2.7bn in the year ending March 2023, of which imports and exports made up £1.4bn and £1.3bn respectively. Around 6.1% of Wales’ total goods exports were destined for CPTPP member countries during this time.
This agreement marks a shift in the UK’s trade policy towards the Indo-Pacific region, signifying the region’s increasing importance. However, it is important to remember that the majority (around 57.2%, £12bn) of Wales’ goods exports continue to be destined for the EU market. Whilst we understand why the UK Government might have assigned such importance to this trade deal, it is vital that we ensure it is fully compatible with the deal we now have with the EU and must not harm the UK/EU trading relationship or set a precedent for future trade deals with other trading partners.
We have always been broadly supportive of the UK Government’s free trade agenda and of the potential benefits new Free Trade Agreements could bring to Wales. However, CPTPP is significantly different from the bi-lateral negotiations that the UK has undertaken to date. CPTPP is an existing plurilateral agreement, and it has been up to the UK Government to demonstrate compliance with the terms of CPTPP rather than negotiate new provisions. It is also worth noting that the UK Government has already signed, or is already negotiating, bi-lateral trade agreements with many CPTPP members, such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico.
We have always had, and continue to have, concerns with certain elements of the existing agreement and the level of ambition in some of the CPTPP chapter text. Now that the agreement has been signed, and the UK Government has published its impact assessment, my officials will complete a full report detailing our perspective on the UK’s accession. This will be published in due course.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.