The UK is poised to join a major trading bloc with 11 other countries – including Australia, Canada and Japan – with reports that UK membership in CPTPP could be sealed as early as tomorrow.
Negotiations between Britain and existing members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) have been taking place since September 2021.
Those talks now appear to have come to a close with claims that a virtual ceremony to welcome the UK to the bloc will be held late tomorrow.
That is what a diplomat from one of the member states told us Politics that negotiations are ‘done’ and that UK membership is ‘all agreed’.
They added that the bloc’s trade ministers will meet virtually late Thursday – or early Friday for those in Asia – to “seal it all.”
Trade and Commerce Minister Kemi Badenoch has spearheaded Britain’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
The 11 current CPTPP members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam
CPTPP is one of the largest free trade zones in the world and it is estimated that the combined GDP between member countries would reach £11 trillion if the UK joins
The 11 current CPTPP members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Trade experts hailed how the bloc’s UK membership – which is being pushed by Trade and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch – would now give it “equivalent economic weight” to the EU and could even encourage America to rejoin.
Former US President Donald Trump withdrew from what was then known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership shortly after joining the White House in January 2017.
China, Taiwan, Ecuador and South Korea are also applying to join CPTPP.
Britain’s application to join the CPTPP, launched after leaving the EU, is part of the government’s ‘Indo-Pacific’ foreign policy tilt.
CPTPP is one of the largest free trade zones in the world and it is estimated that the combined GDP of member countries would reach £11 trillion if the UK joined.
But there have recently been claims of clashes between cabinet ministers over the terms of UK membership amid fears that countries such as Canada and Mexico could flood UK markets with cheap beef and pork.
Downing Street said today that negotiations over Britain’s membership of the CPTPP are “going well” and revealed that ministers would “meet with their counterparts later this week”.
No10 also promised an update on the results of the talks at the “earliest possible opportunity”.
It is clear that the government does not determine when the UK will be accepted as a CPTPP member, with all decisions being taken by the existing member states.
A spokesman for the Department for Business and Trade said: ‘We are making great progress with the UK’s accession to CPTPP and aim to finalize discussions as soon as possible.
“The government is working to ensure that the UK joins on terms that work for British business and are in line with domestic priorities.”
It has previously been suggested that a breakthrough in CPTPP negotiations came when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak finalized his ‘Windsor Framework’ deal with the EU on post-Brexit rules for Northern Ireland.
It was alleged that CPTPP members were concerned about the government’s threat to unilaterally rewrite the Northern Ireland Protocol without an agreement with the EU on customs arrangements.
Mr Sunak dropped that threat as soon as he reached an agreement with Brussels.
Shanker Singham, a fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs and former adviser to ex-International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, said: ‘UK entry into the CPTPP would be a seismic geoeconomic event.
“For the first time, a major G7 country has chosen to join a regional grouping not because it is part of that region, but because it represents liberal values and offers economic opportunities.
‘If the UK succeeds in joining the CPTPP, it will be much more than just a regional agreement; it will be a real challenge to the antiquated World Trade Organization system and could encourage that system to embrace reform.
‘CPTPP+UK has as much economic weight as the EU-28-UK.
“If the UK’s entry accelerates the possibility of the US rejoining the CPTPP, it would become a grouping that covers about half of the world’s economy.”