Asia Pacific bloc CPTPP considers UK bid to join trade zone that 'could equal EU'

Wed 2 Jun 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The 11 Pacific nations that form part of the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) have begun talks over whether to allow the UK to begin the process of joining the pact.

Japanese economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the move would strengthen economic ties between the UK and Japan, and make the CPTPP zone equal in economic size to the EU, Bloomberg reports.

Japan backing

Japan is chairing a working group on the UK’s application, with Singapore and Australia as vice-chairs. It has been supportive of the UK’s efforts to seal global trade deals and reached a trade agreement last year, as reported in the IOE&IT Daily Bulletin.

The UK also has separate deals with other member countries including Canada, Singapore and Vietnam and is pushing for one with Australia.

New Zealand, another CPTPP member, has released a statement welcoming the start of the accession process. 

However, trade minister Damien O’Connor said CPTPP members would look to see how the UK will meet the “high standards required in the CPTPP, including those relating to market access”.

Precedent for other members

“It will be particularly important that this first accession process sets a strong precedent, both in regard to the substantive commitments expected of the UK, as well as in the adoption of a thorough and robust process,” he added.

Singapore trade and industry minister Gan Kim Yong said Singapore also supported the UK’s application while emphasising that it had to meet CPTPP standards, reports the Straits Times.

Both the US and China have signalled that they could be interested in joining the CPTPP, and existing members want to ensure that a heavyweight new member doesn’t reshape the organisation to its own ends.

Moving east

As outlined in the IOE&IT daily bulletin the UK is keen to join the trade bloc, which accounts for 13.3% of world GDP, as it looks for new global trading opportunities following Brexit.

UK international trade secretary Liz Truss said membership was a huge opportunity. “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.”

Truss tweeted that the government would present its plans on the deal to parliament in the coming weeks.