UK takes another step closer to entry into CPTPP trade bloc ahead of trade minister's visit to Asia

Fri 18 Feb 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Asia Trade

The UK has today (18 February 2022) reached what the Department for International Trade is calling “a major milestone” in its bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – a free trade area worth £8.4 trillion in GDP. 

Confirmed by the Japanese government, as Chair of the UK’s Accession Working Group on behalf of the CPTPP members, early this morning, the UK has moved into the second ‘market access’ phase of negotiations to join CPTPP.

Asia visit

The announcement comes ahead of international trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s visit to Indonesia, Japan and Singapore next week to oversee the launch of the final accession stage and deepen trade ties throughout the Indo-Pacific region. 

Trevelyan has hailed CPTPP as “one of the largest and most exciting free-trading clubs in the world”. 

Moving to the final stage of the CPTPP accession process is a key milestone towards accession and “means the UK has demonstrated to members of the partnership that we are a high-standards, fair trading economy,” a DIT statement said. 

Who’s who in CPTPP

CPTPP became a trade bloc in 2018, when founding members Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam signed the CPTPP agreement.

Alongside the UK, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand have expressed an interest in joining the CPTPP. President Joe Biden has also hinted that the US could sign up.

Why does the UK want to join a Pacific trade pact? Ten key CPTPP questions are answered here.

South Korea move

Earlier this month, the UK signed an agreement with South Korea to reinforce pandemic-damaged supply lines for key products like semiconductors. At the signing, Trevelyan observed the agreement represented “our Indo-Pacific tilt in action – strengthening ties with one of the largest economies in the world”.

China, the world’s second biggest economy by share of GDP, submitted its application to join CPTPP in September last year.

For political, economic and human rights reasons, entry into CPTPP is the subject of much debate between member states.

As previously noted in the IOE&IT’s Daily Update all 11 countries in the bloc have to agree to new members, and tough conditions for China’s accession around data localisation, state-owned enterprises, subsidies, IP rights and government procurement being proposed.