CPTPP Bill, report stage – briefing note

The CPTPP Bill, which was brought for debate among MPs this week, allows the UK to fully sign up to a major trade deal with 11 Pacific nations, and has implications for the NHS and social care and public health more generally. This short briefing shared with MPs in advance of the debate provides our analysis of the Bill and suggests key questions where commitments or provisions may be unclear.


Published: 21/03/2024

Read the briefing [PDF 280.3KB]

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) Bill was brought for debate among MPs this week. It will allow the UK to fully sign up to a major trade deal with 11 Pacific nations, and has implications for the NHS and social care and public health more generally. 

We shared a short briefing with all MPs in advance of the debate, presenting our analysis of these implications, and raising a set of key questions where our analysis shows commitments or provisions are unclear. The briefing looks across the issues of investment protections, medicines, food safety and standards, procurement, and staffing. The Bill received Royal Assent following the debate, meaning it will become law and the UK will join the CPTPP trade group later this year. 


  • The CPTPP Bill provides an opportunity for MPs to scrutinise a major trade deal in depth. It is important to note that the agreement has already been reached, and some of the protections and suspensions it contains are quite unique. This debate offers only limited parliamentary scrutiny, which remains weak under the UK system.

  • Investment protections under CPTPP create some risk that the government could be sued by private companies in international tribunals, on the grounds that new measures to clamp down on unhealthy products such as tobacco, or to renationalise private health services, have reduced the value of their investments. There are stronger defences against this than in some previous agreements, protecting the ability to regulate, but they remain largely untested.

  • These stronger protections create an opportunity to give the UK less risk of having measures challenged than some earlier investment treaties. However, it is unclear whether companies could still continue to use these earlier agreements, which would be a missed opportunity.

  • “Side letter” agreements which the UK Government has signed with each CPTPP member protect it from the risk that CPTPP rules on patents could force it to leave the European Patent Convention. This is separate from the EU and saves trouble for the NHS, the UK government and business in having multiple systems. However, these letters also mean that in theory the UK government has committed to campaign internationally to add an extra grace period for companies to be allowed to charge full prices for medicines. 

  • Other provisions on medicine currently carry little risk of increasing prices. However, if suspended provisions on how prices can be set and controlled were brought back, this would affect the ability of the NHS to bargain for affordable medicine.

  • CPTPP has articles which commit the UK government to recognising food safety regulations from other countries which may not control potentially dangerous products in the same way. It does not provide for the UK to follow the “precautionary principle” of banning products where evidence of harm is unclear. However, the key provisions cannot actually be enforced under the agreement, and the UK has already agreed similar commitments before. 

  • Health services are exempt from provisions on procurement, and social care also appears not to be included. Purchasing of medicines and services like cleaning may be affected, but it is not clear that CPTPP meaningfully adds to agreements the UK has already signed anyway.

  • There does not appear to be any meaningful implication for NHS staffing.