• Thursday, June 20, 2024


Britain seals trans-Pacific trade pact membership

The UK applied to join the CPTPP in February 2021, kicking off talks later in June

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a visit to the UK Atomic Energy Authority, Culham Science Centre, on on March 30, 2023 in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

Following nearly two years of negotiations, the UK will join 11 other nations in a significant Asia-Pacific economic relationship, prime minister Rishi Sunak revealed on Friday (31). This agreement will be the UK’s largest post-Brexit trade agreement.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which was established in 2018, will welcome Britain as its first new member and the first European nation.

Once the UK joins as its 12th member, the trade alliance will have more than 500 million members and represent 15 per cent of the world’s GDP, according to Sunak’s office.

It said Britain’s admission — after 21 months of “intense negotiations” — puts the country “at the heart of a dynamic group of economies” and was evidence of “seizing the opportunities of our new post-Brexit trade freedoms”.

The development fulfils a key pledge of Brexit supporters that, outside the European Union, the UK could capitalise on joining other trade blocs with faster-growing economies than those closer to home.

Critics have argued that such ventures will struggle to compensate for the economic damage sustained by leaving the EU, the world’s largest trading bloc and collective economy.

“We are at our heart an open and free-trading nation, and this deal demonstrates the real economic benefits of our post-Brexit freedoms,” Sunak said in a statement announcing the deal.

“As part of CPTPP, the UK is now in a prime position in the global economy to seize opportunities for new jobs, growth and innovation.”

The CPTPP is the successor to a previous trans-Pacific trade pact that the United States withdrew from under former President Donald Trump in 2017.

Its members include fellow G7 members Canada and Japan, and historic UK allies Australia and New Zealand.

The remaining members are Mexico, Chile and Peru, along with Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Brunei.

In Tokyo, Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno welcomed the announcement.

“The UK is a global strategic partner and also an important trading and investment partner,” he told reporters.

Its accession “will have great meaning for forming a free and fair economic order,” he added.

Despite rising geopolitical tensions, in particular with Canberra, China formally applied to join the bloc in 2021.

All existing members must reach a consensus for a new country to enter the CPTPP.

Matsuno said Japan would need to examine whether China and other nations hoping to join can meet the required conditions, and would also consider the “strategic viewpoint” and Japanese public opinion.

Since Britain quit the EU’s single market in 2021, it has been trying to strike bilateral deals to boost its international trade — and flagging economy.

London has so far inked agreements with far-flung allies including Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, and is in talks with India and Canada.


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