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New UK trade deal ’rewards environmental destruction’, warns WWF 

WWF | 17 July 2023

New UK trade deal ’rewards environmental destruction’, warns WWF 

For immediate release

Ahead of the formal signing of a new UK trade deal with 11 countries including Canada and Mexico on July 16, WWF-UK warned that the deal: 

  • Encourages trade in products made with pesticides that are banned in UK; 
  • Encourages trade in deforestation-linked palm oil;  
  • Rewards environmentally destructive practices that harm UK farmers; and 
  • Has received little public and Parliamentary scrutiny. 

Although the deal, the Comprehensive and Progressive Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP), has been heralded by the UK Government as a strategic and economic success, it has received very little public or parliamentary scrutiny, is only expected to grow GDP by 0.08% in the long term, and increases risk to the environment, suggesting that Ministers have not learnt from the failings of the recent UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

The environmental dangers represented by the CPTPP are profound for both food production and for encouraging practices linked with deforestation. For example, the agreement encourages trade in products made with pesticides which are banned for use in the UK, and which are known to damage biodiversity. Major signatories such as Canada, use various types of UK banned neonicotinoids, which kill bees, the pollinators at the root of our food system, and poison aquatic ecosystems.  The trade deal will zero palm oil tariffs (a tax on imports) for Malaysia, which could incentivise further deforestation caused by plantations. 

As a result, the CPTPP rewards and incentivises environmentally destructive practices that put UK farmers, transitioning to more sustainable practices, at a disadvantage. 

Angela Francis, Director of Policy Solutions, WWF-UK said: 

“In signing up to the CPTPP, without appropriate safeguards, this Government is knowingly enabling trade in products that are wreaking havoc on our natural world for negligible economic gain. 

“However, the Government could still solve this problem by setting core environmental standards on food imported into the UK. This would not only protect our precious natural world but would also level the playing field for our domestic farmers who are making strides towards greener farming practices.  

 “To fix our broken food system and save our wild isles, the UK must show it is serious about delivering on its climate and nature promises and secure them in trade policy by establishing core environmental standards.” 

While the UK Government has promised to uphold existing food, environmental and animal welfare standards for domestic production in trade negotiations, it has failed to put in place any environmental standards for the produce we import. With the UK-CPTPP agreement rewarding and incentivising environmentally destructive practices, the level playing field for British farmers already producing to higher standards and on the path to more sustainable farming is undermined.

WWF is calling on the UK Government to both guarantee a substantive debate and vote on the final deal in Parliament and to develop a set of core environmental standards that imports must meet to access the UK market. Such standards would allow the UK to benefit from trade agreements, whilst safeguarding against environmentally harmful practices. 

Notes to Editors 

  • The long-term economic GDP growth from CPTPP membership is estimated at 0.08% according to UK government projections. 
  • The UK will drop tariffs on palm oil, which can range up to 12%, to 0%. Palm oil is a driver of deforestation that destroys the habitat of already endangered species, like the orangutan. 
  • 119 pesticides that are banned in the UK are permitted across CPTPP members for agriculture use, 56% of which are deemed “highly hazardous”. These pesticides are known to kill bee populations and destroy aquatic ecosystems. 
  • CPTPP members use methods of production banned in the UK.  Canada has received increased market access to the UK for pork which can be raised in sow stalls, banned in the UK in 1999, under the CPTPP while it is expected that the UK will drop tariffs on Mexican eggs from battery caged hens, banned in the UK in 2012, to access the UK market. 
  • Vietnam is currently under a “yellow card” from the European Union for not countering illegal, unregulated, and unreported tuna fishing. Vietnam also scored poorly for its fishing of crustaceans and catfish production in WWF’s Risky Sea Food report. 

 source: WWF