London: As part of its post-Brexit foreign policy focus on the Indo-Pacific region, Britain on Tuesday launched negotiations to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), made up of 11 countries belonging to an estimated 9 trillion pounds free trade area.
The CPTPP is made up of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, with the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and the Republic of Korea said to have plans to join.
The UK said joining the trade bloc would give the country’s exporters and services firms better access to these dynamic markets and boost growth and support British jobs.
“Membership of the CPTTP free-trade partnership would open up unparalleled opportunities for British businesses and consumers in the fast-growing Indo-Pacific,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to build on this country’s entrepreneurial spirit and free-trading history to bring economic benefits across the whole of the UK,” he said.
According to the Department for International Trade (DIT), the UK’s exports to CPTPP countries are set to increase by 65 per cent up to 37 billion pounds by 2030 and membership is expected to lower tariffs on key British exports like cars and whisky and should mean tariff-free trade for 99.9 per cent of exports.
“This part of the world is where Britain’s greatest opportunities lie. We left the EU with the promise of deepening links with old allies and fast-growing consumer markets beyond Europe, and joining the high-standards Trans-Pacific Partnership is an important part of that vision,” said International Trade Secretary Liz Truss.
“Membership would help our farmers, makers and innovators sell to some of the biggest economies of the present and future, but without ceding control over our laws, borders or money. It is a glittering post-Brexit prize that I want us to seize,” she said.
In reference to specific sectors, the pact is expected to benefit British farmers, helping farmers in Britain sell meat produced into fast-growing markets like Mexico.
In the digital and services sector, an agreement would make it simpler for the UK to sell services digitally and cheaper and easier for tech firms to expand abroad.
It marks a series of trade negotiations initiated by the UK as a non-member of the European Union (EU), including opening a 14-week consultation at the end of last month for a prospective India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) as part of a Roadmap 2030.
According to the DIT, joining CPTPP would also open new financial and professional services markets for British firms, making it easier for highly skilled Brits to live and work in member countries.
It highlighted that the CPTPP agreement has strong rules against unfair trade practices like favouring state-owned enterprises, protectionism, discriminating against foreign investors, and forcing companies to hand over private information.
“The UK’s joining will strengthen the international consensus against such unfair practices,” DIT said.
“The free trade area would uphold the UK’s right to regulate in its national self-interest, rather than forcing harmonisation on its members. This is well aligned with Britain’s system – a strong rule of law coupled with the freedom to set our own regulations,” it added.
Official DIT statistics state that CPTPP countries accounted for 110 billion pounds worth of UK trade in 2019 and UK trade with CPTPP member countries has grown by 8 per cent annually between 2016-19.