Hopes high that the UK will gain membership of Pacific Rim trade bloc CPTPP by 2022

Wed 17 Nov 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News


The UK is “on track” to achieve its aim of joining the CPTPP next year, according to a British trade official.

The UK, which applied to join the CPTPP in February, is “moving incredibly quickly” in discussions, said Natalie Black, trade commissioner for the Asia-Pacific region.

Nikkei Asia reports that the UK has submitted files on how it would comply with CPTPP bylaws and will move on to discuss market access offers such as on tariff cuts and any exemptions it is seeking.

The UK has also made headway on e-commerce and procurement discussions.

Asian tilt

As previously covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, the UK is targeting the Asia-Pacific region as an important area for it to build influence after leaving the EU.

An ‘Asian tilt’ would be potentially beneficial for trade, with the CPTPP representing about 13% of global GDP and some of the fastest growing economies, including Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

It would also provide UK influence in an area that is of growing global political importance, and potentially a ‘back door’ to closer trade relations with the US.

As well as the CPTPP application, the UK has also gained dialogue partner status with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and launched the AUKUS security alliance with Australia and the US.

Regional commitment

The trade commissioner tweeted that the UK’s application was “at the heart of commitment to the Indo-Pacific”.

“We want to be known as the European country with the broadest and most complementary trading relationships around the region,” Black told Nikkei Asia.

Accession to the CPTPP will be a major boost for Boris Johnson's plans for Global Britain, reports the Express.

The bloc already accounts for £11 billion worth of UK trade and has seen significant growth since 2016.

Scramble for membership

As well as the UK, which was the first non-founder member to apply to join the CPTPP, China and Taiwan followed suit with applications in September.

The US, which under president Obama was a founder of CPTPP predecessor the TPP, has no plans to join and is pursuing a strategy for an “economic framework” with other nations in the region, as covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update.

The CPTPP created an accession working group to process the UK’s application, for which it has submitted a 192-page report outlining how it will meet the standards of CPTPP.

Black said that the UK’s strength in services would help it become a “thought leader” in such sectors as financial services and technology.

Vietnam, which has been supportive of the UK bid, signed a letter of intent on digital collaboration with the UK at COP26, reports Vietnam Briefing.