Global Britain ambitions ramp up as UK nears trans-Pacific free trade pact

Trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan to visit Asia next week to take talks further

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08: Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan arrives at Downing Street on February 08, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Rob Pinney / Getty Images)
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Britain reached a major milestone on Friday in its bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) — a free trade area worth £8.4 trillion ($11.4tn) in gross domestic product.

Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who is set to visit Asia next week to accelerate talks further, hailed the second and final phase of the UK’s negotiations with the trade bloc as “one of the largest and most exciting free-trade clubs in the world”.

It is the latest major move by “Global Britain” as it strives to become an international player on the global trade stage following its exit from the EU at the end of 2020, with a free trade agreement also in the pipeline with the GCC.

“Today’s announcement is a major milestone for us joining this dynamic group of economies and means the finish line is in sight,” Ms Trevelyan said.

“I look forward to visiting Asia next week and flying the flag for Global Britain by holding valuable trade talks with key partners across the Indo-Pacific region and pushing to secure CPTPP accession by the end of the year. This just one aspect of our Indo-Pacific strategy, which will benefit businesses and consumer across every part of the UK and help us to level up at home.”

Britain applied to join the trans-Pacific free trade pact between 11 countries in January last year, under the leadership of Liz Truss, who was trade minister at the time.

Since leaving the EU, Britain has made clear its desire to join CPTPP, which removes most tariffs between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Joining the bloc could result in tariffs on 99.9 per cent of UK exports being slashed, opening up massive new trading opportunities for businesses across the UK.

Confirmation on the UK reaching the next stage of the process came from Japan, before Ms Trevelyan’s visit to Indonesia, Japan and Singapore next week to oversee the final accession stage and deepen trade ties throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

The government said the move to the final stage of the process indicates that the UK has successfully demonstrated it has a high-standards, fair trading economy, with new guarantees of access to services markets set to boost UK exports.

Other benefits include the potential for Britain to expand its digital reach in the global marketplace and make it easier for some UK exports to qualify for preferential tariff treatment.

CPTPP membership will also support the government’s levelling-up agenda, with the West Midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland expected to gain the most.

Wales will receive a £53 million boost to its Gross Value Added from the pact, with £45m for Northern Ireland and £163m for Scotland.

“Global trade is pivotal for levelling up our regions, and this deal could unlock opportunities with countries contributing more than £100bn to our economy. It will also give the UK a chance to play a leading role in shaping standards,” said Lord Karan Bilimoria, president of the Confederation of British Industry.

Updated: February 18, 2022, 12:39 PM