Britain begins negotiations to join the trans-Pacific trade deal

The UK will begin negotiations on Tuesday to join a trans-Pacific trade deal it sees as crucial to its post-Brexit turn away from Europe and towards more geographically distant but faster-growing economies.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) eliminates 95% of tariffs among its members: Japan, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, Chile and Malaysia.

Britain hopes to gain a foothold in world trade as an exporter of premium consumer goods and professional services. Joining the pact would complement the trade deals that London is seeking, or has already agreed to, with larger members.

“This part of the world is where Britain's greatest opportunities are. We left the EU promising to deepen ties with former allies and fast-growing consumer markets beyond Europe, ”said Trade Minister Liz Truss. "It's a brilliant post-Brexit award that I want us to take."

The CPTPP is forecast to lead to minimal gain in UK exports or economic growth. But it blocks market access, even for the legal, financial and professional services sectors, and ministers see it as an important way to gain influence in a region where China is increasingly the dominant economic force.

Joining the CPTPP in its current format could add around 1.8 billion pounds ($ 2.5 billion) to the economy in the long run, or less than 0.1% of pre-pandemic gross domestic product, according to the British government model released Tuesday.

That gain could rise to £ 5.500bn, or 0,25% of GDP, if Thailand, South Korea and the United States also joined the bloc.

Unlike the European Union, the CPTPP does not impose laws on its members, does not aim to create a single market or customs union, and does not seek broader political integration.

Elimination of tariffs

The membership negotiation process is primarily about demonstrating to existing members that Britain can meet the group's standards on tariff elimination and trade liberalization, and then setting out details of how and when it will do so.

"The CPTPP agreement has strict rules against unfair commercial practices such as favoring state companies, protectionism, discriminating against foreign investors and forcing companies to hand over private information," the commerce department said in a statement.

"The union of the United Kingdom will strengthen the international consensus against such unfair practices," he added.

The government is expected to release documents outlining its assessment of the benefits of membership on Tuesday, but it highlighted cars and whiskey as exports of goods that would benefit.

The United States withdrew from a previously planned trans-Pacific trade pact under then-President Donald Trump. His successor, Joe Biden, spoke before his election last November about the possibility of renegotiating the deal, but has not presented firm plans since taking office. ($ 1 = 0.7208 pounds) (Reporting by William James; additional reporting by Andy Bruce Edited by Gareth Jones and Peter Graff)

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