UK will ask to join free trade bloc CPTPP next week

Membership of trans-Pacific group would entail near-frictionless custom with Australia, Canada, Japan and others

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Britain will next week apply to join a trans-Pacific free trade pact between 11 countries with negotiations set to start later this year, the UK government said on Saturday.

UK Trade Minister Lizz Truss will speak to counterparts in Japan and New Zealand on Monday and make the formal request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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.

"One year after our departure from the EU we are forging new partnerships that will bring enormous economic benefits for the people of Britain," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Britain will not publish an assessment of the economic benefits of CPTPP membership before requesting to join it – contrary to earlier promises.

Previous government economic analyses of Brexit have pointed to small boosts to economic output from additional trade deals.

The government said joining CPTPP would remove tariffs on food and drink and cars while helping to boost the technology and services sectors.

"Applying to be the first new country to join the CPTPP demonstrates our ambition to do business on the best terms with our friends and partners all over the world, and to be an enthusiastic champion of global free trade," Mr Johnson said.