Britain Set to Apply to Join Asia-Pacific Free Trade Pact

January 31, 2021 Updated: January 31, 2021

The UK will make a formal request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the government has said.

Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will speak to ministers in Japan and New Zealand on Monday morning to request to join the free trade pact, with formal negotiations set to start this year, the government said in a statement on Saturday.

CPTPP is a landmark 11-country trade deal that includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, and Peru.

The UK started exploring membership of CPTPP in 2018 in the hope of stimulating exports after Brexit.

The announcement of the application for CPTPP membership comes as the UK marks the one-year anniversary of its formal departure from the European Union on Jan. 31, 2020.

CPTPP membership is a “key part” of the UK’s plan to position itself at the centre of “a network of modern free trade deals” after Brexit, the government 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,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“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,” he said.

The UK government said CPTPP membership would “deepen the UK’s access to fast-growing markets and major economies, including Mexico, Malaysia, and Vietnam, for the benefit of UK business.”

The government said CPTPP membership will cut tariffs for UK industries and, unlike EU membership, will not require the UK to “cede control over our laws, borders, or money.”

Truss said joining the pact will create “enormous opportunities” for UK businesses that “simply weren’t there as part of the EU.”

UK trade with the group was worth £111 billion ($152 billion) in 2019, the government said.

The figure is dwarfed by Britain’s trade with the EU. In 2019, the UK exported to the EU £294 billion ($403 billion) worth of goods and services, and its imports from the EU amounted to £374 billion ($513 billion).

The UK exited the EU’s single market and customs union on Dec. 31, 2020, when the Brexit transition period ended.