UK to begin process to join trans-Pacific trade partnership

Japan has been supportive of Britain's efforts to seal global trade deals following its exit from the European Union. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Member nations of a Pacific regional trade deal agreed on Wednesday (June 2) to allow Britain to begin the process to join the pact, in a potential boost for the country's trade following Brexit.

Japan's Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the move would strengthen economic ties between Britain and Japan, as well as making the zone covered by the deal equal to the European Union (EU) in terms of economic size.

He spoke to reporters after hosting an online meeting of ministers and officials from the 11 countries that make up the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

"The commencement of an accession process with the United Kingdom and the potential expansion of the CPTPP will send a strong signal to our trading partners around the world of our commitment to support a free, fair, open, effective, inclusive and rules-based trading system," the ministers said in a joint statement.

While the grouping was at one point seen as a way for the United States and Japan to counter the growing economic might of China, former president Donald Trump withdrew from negotiations when he took office in 2017 and his successor Joe Biden has not indicated any reversal is likely.

More recently, China itself has shown interest in joining the pact, following its signing of the separate Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a less demanding agreement covering some of the same nations.

Japan has been supportive of Britain's efforts to seal global trade deals as it seeks to carve out a bigger role in Asia following its exit from the EU.

The two countries reached a bilateral trade agreement last year.

Britain also has separate pacts with other member countries, including Canada, Singapore and Vietnam, and is pushing for one with Australia. Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and Peru are also part of CPTPP.

Britain made its formal application to join CPTPP in February.

Becoming a member would accelerate Britain's growth in export trade with faster-expanding Asian economies, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Mike Dennis.

Britain recorded a trade surplus with CPTPP countries in the first quarter of 2021, he added.

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