Looking east

Think tank: Centre for Policy Studies

Author(s): Anthony Mangnall MP; Luke Stanley; Jethro Elsden; Elizabeth Dunkley

January 17, 2022

This report from UK think tank the Centre for Policy Studies looks at the case for UK membership of CPTPP.

Pacific Vim, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, argues that the most common objections to CPTPP based on workers’ rights, environmental protection, food standards, agriculture, the NHS, sovereignty, and more do not stand up to serious scrutiny. For example, modelling by the government found that emissions would rise by a negligible 0.025% by 2035 due to increased trade with far-flung nations, but this can be expected to be offset by the subsequent changes in the economy that would boost efficiency and trade in green technology. Mangnall also points out that the idea that joining any free trading bloc puts the NHS ‘on the table’ is for the birds.

By contrast, the report argues that there are obvious and overwhelming benefits associated with joining CPTPP – a high-standards free-trade agreement adopted by 11 leading economies including Australia, Canada, Japan and Vietnam. The economic benefits of CPTPP include a boost to GDP of an initial £1.8 billion a year, which could reach £20bn as CPTPP expands. However, these estimates are, by the Government’s own admission, very likely to be significantly below the real figure. Economic analysis shows that all nations and regions of the UK will benefit from increased trade, with Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North among the areas that will benefit most – a boost for the Government’s levelling up and pro-Union agendas. The CPTPP is also a gold-standard agreement when it comes to digital trade. The UK’s participation will help promote UK interests as a global leader in the ever-growing digital trade sector.

Being at the heart of an expanding CPTPP would bring not only economic benefits but geopolitical ones too, putting the UK at the centre of a growing economic region, providing support for our allies and challenging China’s low-standards approach to free trade in the region. Indeed, rather than viewing membership of CPTPP as an end point in itself, the UK should see accession to the agreement as a starting point from which to build new high-standards partnerships with its members on a range of issues. It therefore fully endorses the Government’s decision to seek accession to the CPTPP, and urges for this to be a top priority for Britain’s independent trade policy.