Amendment 6

Part of Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords am 6:30 pm ar 16 Ionawr 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Shadow Spokesperson (Business and Trade), Shadow Spokesperson (Scotland) 6:30, 16 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, this group is the meat of Report. We have eight amendments in this group, and many have been ably introduced and explained. We have had detailed debates on all these issues in Committee, so there is no need to rehash all the arguments. I have tabled two amendments in this group and added my name to two others. I thank the Minister and his officials for making themselves available for discussions both before Committee and before Report. I will concentrate on the four amendments to which I have put my name. To be clear, like others, I am seeking commitments from the Minister on the quality, detail and depth of the impact assessment that the Government have committed to. We will listen to his response. The noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, said he was seeking meaningful reassurances.

Impact assessments are a good thing. Understanding the effects of any new settlement, both the positive and the negative, is a sensible way of learning the lessons, especially as CPTPP, although small in the scale of trade, is varied in terms of the countries involved. Impact assessments on ISDS, animal welfare, pesticides, commodities, workers’ rights, forestry and public services are therefore vital tools in understanding the successes and failures, the winners and losers, of this deal. If the Minister truly believes in the CPTPP and is confident that its impact will be wholly positive, surely he will have no problem with this undertaking.

I turn to the amendments. Amendment 13 deals with labour standards. The basis for this amendment is very straightforward. Unions both here and abroad have deep concerns about the inadequacies of the labour chapters and the fact that the agreement would consider an infringement of labour rights actionable only if it is proved to have a deleterious effect on trade. The fact that many of the countries we would be joining do not comply with even the most basic ILO standards compounds this structural problem. Indeed, with regard to the eight ILO conventions, Brunei has ratified only two and Malaysia and Singapore only five each. Five of the 11 CPTPP nations have not ratified the convention on the freedom of association. In Mexico, for example, companies regularly engage in union busting and in Vietnam, union leadership is often controlled by senior management. It is important to note that no CPTPP Government have ever challenged another over labour rights violations. We are concerned that not only does lowering the barriers to trade with these countries encourage the continued abuse of workers globally but it could undermine the protections we have here for the sake of competitiveness.

The other reason for this amendment is so that we can assess the potential negative effects on UK businesses. We have heard this from a number of noble Lords. None of us wants to see the undercutting of UK manufacturers and producers by forced labour or breaches of labour standards. We are all aware of the US pausing imports of goods where forced labour was used.

Amendment 14 deals with the impact of the procurement chapter on UK public services. Many have raised the issue that the negative list approach to service listing in the CPTPP could expose the NHS to further privatisation. The ratchet clause as well as the ISDS provisions could preclude the Government taking services back under public control if it affected a private business’s profits. The Government have argued that the NHS will never be on the table, but it is hard to see how that can be true if they have made no effort to take it off the table. This amendment calls for an impact assessment to monitor progress in this area.

Amendment 9 deals with the ISDS—investor-state dispute settlement—provisions in the agreement. My noble friend Lord Davies of Brixton explained this in detail. Many other noble Lords have rightly highlighted this issue in particular. Given that the Government, by implication, agree that the ISDS provisions are outdated and dangerous by signing side-letters with Australia and New Zealand to preclude their use, it seems strange that the Secretary of State for Business and Trade would reject calls to do a similar deal with Canada, a particularly litigious member of the CPTPP, as many US businesses can testify.

It is vital, therefore, that we monitor the effect that ISDS has on our standards, and that is why an impact assessment is so important. My noble friend Lord Davies called for a close review, and he is correct. He also noted the chilling effects on government decision-making, which relates to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, about Governments making decisions because they are concerned about their sovereign policy-making being affected by other businesses.

Amendment 11 deals with the deforestation. Again, this was well explained by the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park. The fact that this trade eliminates tariffs on forest-risk commodities such as palm oil from Malaysia is clearly a cause for concern. Through this deal the UK could incentivise further deforestation of the rainforest and other environmentally destructive practices while at the same time placing UK farmers at a disadvantage. Indeed, the department’s own climate impact assessment states on page 79:

“Deforestation in CPTPP countries, where it occurs, has been driven by production of commodities such as cattle, timber, and palm oil. The majority of CPTPP members are not considered to be at risk of deforestation, except Malaysia which has experienced a 29% reduction in tree cover over the last 20 years. This has been driven by agricultural commodities which accounted for 93% of Malaysia’s tree cover loss since 2001, implying that international trade plays a key role in the country’s deforestation”.

These are the Government’s own words in their own impact assessment, so ensuring that deforestation and other issues are dealt with properly in the Government’s impact assessment in two years’ time is critical.

With regard to Amendment 12, we must ensure that our pesticide residue testing systems function as they should. This has been picked up by previous speakers. Like many noble Lords, I am concerned about the possibility of contaminated food entering the UK market and endangering public health. The WWF, among others, has raised concerns about this deal encouraging the use of pesticides abroad which could damage biodiversity.

With regard to Amendment 8, we must ensure that the rights of performers, as with those of other workers, are not undercut by this deal. Finally, on Amendment 10, I echo what has been said previously on environmental protections. The CPTPP does not even mention animal welfare, which makes an impact assessment even more important.

All the amendments in this group represent a chance for the Minister to prove that CPTPP accession can be monitored and assessed and that Parliament can have proper oversight of its consequences.