UK Could Begin Process to Join Pacific Trading Block in Weeks

(L-R, first row) Brunei's Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs Erywan Dato Pehin, Chile's Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet, Australia's Trade Minister Steven Ciobo and Canada's International Trade Minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne, and (L-R, back row) Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang, New Zealand's Minister for …
CLAUDIO REYES/AFP via Getty Images

A group of Pacific rim nations have welcomed Brexit Britain into accession talks to join the CPTPP trading bloc, with the government saying that negotiations could start in the coming weeks.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is the world’s third-largest free trade area comprising 11 countries spanning from South East Asia and Australasia to the Americas and covers 500 million people.

On Wednesday, the government announced that CPTPP nations had authorised Britain’s accession negotiations, with the UK set to continue working closely with Japan, the chairing nation of the CPTPP commission and the first country with which the UK signed a free trade deal after leaving the European Union.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “CPTTP membership is a huge opportunity for Britain. It will help shift our economic centre of gravity away from Europe towards faster-growing parts of the world, and deepen our access to massive consumer markets in the Asia-Pacific.

“We would get all the benefits of joining a high-standards free trade area, but without having to cede control of our borders, money or laws.”

The government added that it would be publishing assessments before negotiations start “in the coming weeks”.

Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told media on Wednesday that he welcomed the CPTTP’s decision, with the bloc saying in a statement that the UK’s membership could “support the mutual interests, common values and commitment to upholding the rules-based trading system shared by the members of the CPTP”.

“It would also promote market-oriented principles and help to counter protectionism and the use of unjustified trade restrictive measures,” the statement added.

CPTPP countries accounted for £110 billion ($155.98bn) worth of trade to the UK in 2019. Membership would see 95 per cent of tariffs lifted.

It is also claimed the group could act as a counterweight to China, which CPTPP members have accused of undermining free and fair trade. However, Bloomberg reported last month that China was still considering joining the bloc and had reportedly held technical talks with counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia. The news outlet noted that concerns over state-own companies and labour practices could hamper progress.

While Reuters reports that, unlike the EU, the CPTPP does not seek political integration, a Single Market, or Customs Union, Brexit leader Nigel Farage recently expressed his scepticism about the UK’s membership of the bloc.

Farage told Breitbart News Daily in April that “looking at this particular proposal, there’s too many demands… for actual political harmonisation.”

“I think it needs a few amendments. I understand that if you’re trading freely with each other to have fair competition, but if that leads to a form of political integration, we should be suspicious.

“So I’m a little sceptical, at this stage. I do think some more work needs to be done,” Farage said.

The trading bloc is the successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) from the Barack Obama presidency. Former President Donald Trump had withdrawn the U.S. from the plans after his 2017 presidential inauguration.

In 2015, Mr Trump had criticised TPP for being bad for American jobs and the manufacturing sector, and “an attack on America’s business… This is a bad deal.”

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