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Jeremy Miles MS, Counsel General and Minister for European Transition

First published:
1 February 2021
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

The UK Government has announced its intention to accede to the trade bloc known as CPTPP. This does not commit the UK to joining the partnership but it does formally begin the accession process. Other signatories to the Partnership Treaty now consider whether they are content to proceed. If they are, a working group will be established within around 2 to 3 months. The UK will then have to submit important documents on its trade offer within 30 days of the first working group.

CPTPP is made up of 11 countries around the Pacific Rim (Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan) and accounts for around 13% of global GDP. In terms of Welsh trade around 6.2% of goods exports and 9.1% of goods imports are with the group. This compares to around 58.5% of Welsh goods exports to the EU.

The United States (US) was party to the original negotiations but under the Trump administration decided not to ratify the Treaty and join the Partnership. There has been speculation that the incoming administration of President Biden might revisit this. Its underlying approach to some issues is more similar to the US than to the EU, for example it places a strong emphasis on the use of available scientific evidence when assessing risk, rather than adopting the precautionary principle favoured by the EU.

As CPTPP is a pre-existing trade agreement, negotiations would not begin with a clean sheet of paper:  the UK would be required to join broadly on the existing terms. For this reason, whilst it is possible to seek exemptions for sensitive areas through side letters and footnotes, the agreement would probably largely remain as it is.

We are continuing to analyse the agreement and the potential implications of joining for Wales. It is essential that we carefully consider the deal, not only in terms of the potential economic impacts, but the impacts it might have on, for example, our ability to legislate, our high labour, animal health and welfare and environmental standards and our NHS.

Whilst there was a consultation in 2018 there has been very little public debate on this trade deal since that time and I want to assure members that I will be engaging closely with our stakeholders through the Trade Policy Advisory Group and other Welsh Government Forums to help shape our response to UKG.