UK bridge

The United Kingdom’s long search for a trade deal to replace those it had as a member of the European Union seems to have borne fruit, with the members of Trans-Pacific Partnership agreeing to open accession talks with the country.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CP TPP) is a successor to the TPP, which US president Donald Trump withdrew from on his first day in office.

The deal was then revived, retaining two-thirds of the original provisions, with 22 measures supported by the USA but contested by other countries being removed.

The CP TPP’s members are Japan, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Brunei, all countries ringing the Pacific Ocean, though Peru, Chile, Malaysia and Brunei have yet to ratify the agreement.

The member countries together comprise a market of almost 500 million people, with the British Government calling possible accession “a huge opportunity”.

The UK’s international trade secretary Liz Truss said that the decision to begin the accession process was “excellent news”.

“It will help shift our economic centre of gravity away from Europe towards faster-growing parts of the world, and deepen our access to massive consumer markets in the Asia Pacific,” she said.

“We would get all the benefits of joining a high-standards free-trade area, but without having to cede control of our borders, money or laws.”

If accession talks succeed, the CP TPP members’ share of global GDP would rise to from 12.8 per cent to 16 per cent.

The UK already has bilateral economic agreements with seven CP TPP members, with one of the main benefits of joining expected to be greater flexibility in building supply chains spanning multiple countries.

“The United Kingdom’s potential membership would support the mutual interests, common values and commitment to upholding the rules-based trading system shared by the members of the CPTPP,” the 11 member countries said in a statement.

The Partnership’s willingness to open talks with new members will refocus attention to other potential growth opportunities, with countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and China all expressing interesting in joining.

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