Britain could soon become the 12th member of the CPTPP, that includes Canada and 10 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, as UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is expected to submit a request for membership in the bloc on 1 February, according to a Saturday Department for International Trade release.
“International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will speak to ministers in Japan and New Zealand on Monday morning (1 February 2021) to request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), with formal negotiations set to start this year,” the release reads.
The announcement comes as Britain celebrates one year since leaving the European Union and becoming “an independent trading nation”.
While CPTPP countries account for less than 10% of UK exports, membership could “create enormous opportunities for UK businesses” that import goods from the bloc, according to Truss.
"“It will mean lower tariffs for car manufacturers and whisky producers, and better access for our brilliant services providers, delivering quality jobs and greater prosperity for people here at home", Truss said, noting that negotiations would be set to start in "coming months".
The release also specified that "the UK will publish its negotiation objectives, scoping analysis, and consultation response in advance of negotiations expected to start this Spring".
With the Brexit issue, securing broader trade links and supply chains had become a goal of vital importance for Britain. London managed to sign a trade agreement with Brussels in time, but the UK trade’s structure has undergone irreversible changes, and now acknowledges the emerging Asian economies.
Although the part of Asian countries in British trade is small compared to the share of Western countries, the exit from the single market has opened the way for Britain to enter Asian economic blocs. This week Britain joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a dialogue partner, which could later result in full membership.
In addition to traditional trading partners with whom trade agreements have already been extended or signed, Britain has been actively negotiating individually with several Asian countries. The UK has already concluded trade agreements with Japan, Vietnam and Singapore and is continuing negotiations with Australia and New Zealand. All are CPTPP members.
Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
The bloc, established in 2018, includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Their combined economies make up 13.4 percent of the global GDP.
During summer 2020 the British government issued a document confirming the UK’s intention to join the CPTPP. According to the paper, the move is hoped to open new opportunities for British exporters amid diversifying trade relations and to secure UK status as a world financial capital – a position endangered by New York due to Brexit uncertainty.
In December 2020, Liz Truss, UK Secretary for International State for Trade, tweeted her desire for the UK to formally apply for membership in CPTPP in early 2021.
🇬🇧 🇲🇽 Our trade deal with Mexico means we have now secured agreements with 58 countries.— Liz Truss (@trussliz) December 15, 2020
It's our 7th deal with a member of #CPTPP - an agreement of 11 Pacific nations covering almost £9 trillion of trade 🌏
I look forward to the UK applying early next year to join #CPTPP pic.twitter.com/Bod5K98Yvp
In a speech earlier this month, Truss announced that the UK plans to apply for participation "soon."
“The benefits are there to see, whether it is the deeper access to nearly £9 trillion of GDP covered by its members, the modern rules of origin, the 95% tariff-free trade on goods traded between members from cars to seafood, or the modern standards in services, data and digital trade,” she stated.
Meanwhile, CPTPP is awaiting additional applications, including from several significant economies. Earlier in January, Gao Feng, a Ministry of Commerce spokesperson, announced that China would also seek membership in CPTPP. There are also rumors that the US - with a new resident in the White House - could join the bloc, as the former administration withdrew from the agreement in 2017.