Britain will begin negotiations on Tuesday to join a trans-Pacific trade deal that it sees as crucial to its post-Brexit pivot away from Europe and toward geographically more distant but faster-growing economies.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) removes 95 per cent of tariffs between its members: Japan, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, Chile and Malaysia.
Britain hopes to carve out a niche for itself in world trade as an exporter of premium consumer goods and professional services. Accession to the pact would supplement trade deals London is seeking, or has already agreed, with larger members.
“This part of the world is where Britain’s greatest opportunities lie. We left the EU with the promise of deepening links with old allies and fast-growing consumer markets beyond Europe,” trade minister Liz Truss said. “It is a glittering post-Brexit prize that I want us to seize.”
The CPTPP is not expected to lead to a surge in British exports. But it locks in market access, including for legal, financial and professional services sectors, and is seen by ministers as an important way to gain influence in a region where China is increasingly the dominant economic force.
Unlike the European Union, the CPTPP does not impose laws on its members, it does not aim to create a single market or a customs union, and it does not seek wider political integration.