Brexit: UK seeking membership of Trans-Pacific free trade partnership

30 January 2021, 22:31 | Updated: 30 January 2021, 23:00

The UK is hoping to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership under its post-Brexit plans
The UK is hoping to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership under its post-Brexit plans. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The UK will formally ask to join the likes of Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore in becoming a member of a mammoth free-trade partnership under its post-Brexit plans.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will lead Britain's application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The Cabinet minister is set to talk with members of Japan and New Zealand's respective governments on Monday.

Announcing the move on the anniversary of the UK formally leaving the EU, the Department for International Trade (DIT) said negotiations are set to commence later this year.

Membership of the pact will cut tariffs for when the UK trades with the 11 members of the group, which also includes Mexico, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Britain's trade with the partnership last year was worth £111 billion, according to the DIT.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "One year after our departure from the EU we are forging new partnerships that will bring enormous economic benefits for the people of Britain.

"Applying to be the first new country to join the CPTPP demonstrates our ambition to do business on the best terms with our friends and partners all over the world and be an enthusiastic champion of global free trade."

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) welcomed the move, saying it would help firms "thrive and succeed more than ever".

However, shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry said Labour plans to closely scrutinise any agreement and called on the government to consult the public first.

"Like any other trade agreement, the advantages of joining the CPTPP will have to be assessed once we see the terms on offer," she said.

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"At present, Liz Truss cannot even guarantee whether we would have the right to veto China's proposed accession if we join the bloc first.

"More generally, people will rightly ask why we have been through five years of debate in Britain over leaving a trade bloc with our closest neighbours only to rush into joining another one on the other side of the world without any meaningful public consultation at all."

Ms Truss said joining the CPTPP would "create enormous opportunities for UK businesses that simply weren't there as part of the EU".

Confederation of British Industry president Lord Bilimoria said: "Membership of the bloc has the potential to deliver new opportunities for UK business across different sectors."

Sue Davies, the head of consumer protection and food policy at Which?, said ministers must ensure joining CPTPP "will bring clear consumer benefits" and does not dilute standards.

"It is important that consumer interests are at the centre of government trade policy as the success of future agreements will be judged on what they deliver for millions of ordinary people in their everyday lives, not just the export opportunities they provide," she added.