The 11 member-nations of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) have given the green light for the UK to begin negotiations to join the trade bloc.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s minister in charge of the proposed negotiations, chaired a virtual meeting of the CPTPP commission yesterday to agree to start the process, the Guardian reports.
Similar in size to EU
Nishimura said the move would strengthen economic ties between the UK and his country Japan, while giving the UK access to a market similar in size to the EU.
The founding members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
British international trade secretary Liz Truss said she welcomed the decision and would lay out her plans for the negotiations to parliament in the coming weeks, Reuters reports.
The next stage of the process will be the formation of a working party to assess Britain’s compatibility with the deal as it currently stands.
Britain will work with Japan, which chairs the group this year, to conduct the negotiations as quickly as possible.
As noted in the IOE&IT Daily Update last month, the UK will now lay out its opening offer to the CPTPP nations – including tariff cuts, any service sectors from which it proposes to exclude member states and parts of government procurement that would be left out of the deal.
This would then begin a process of negotiation over this offer.
Once all the existing members are satisfied with the terms being discussed, it would formally invite the UK to become a member.
According to the BBC, the UK is not expected to join the CPTPP until next year at the earliest.
Post-Brexit, the UK is keen to refocus its “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”, Liz Truss has said.
Unlike the EU, the CPTPP removes trade barriers such as quotas and tariffs but does not aim to create a single market or a customs union.
“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,” Truss added.
Australia deal nears
Meanwhile, the UK could sign a trade deal with CPTPP member Australia “within weeks”, reports the Times.
A signing ceremony for the agreement is believed to have been “pencilled in” for the week of the G7 Summit in Cornwall on 11-13 June.
It would be the UK’s first completely new post-Brexit trade deal and would slash tariffs between the two countries.
The other agreements signed by the UK since Brexit have largely been to continue terms it already had with countries as a former member of the EU.
The deal will remove tariffs and quotas for trade between the two countries – including for British agriculture.
In return, Australia will remove tariffs on products such as Scotch whisky and cars, while providing greater access to UK services companies.
Sophia Gaston, director at the British Foreign Policy Group, told City AM that the news on Scotch whisky was evidence that “the UK Government is keen to emphasise the potential benefits of a UK-Australia for smaller British producers”.