London joins the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Partnership

London joins the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Partnership

| Friday 31 March 2023

The UK becomes the first country in Europe to join the CPTPP. The bloc now has 500 million inhabitants and 15% of world GDP.

London announced on Friday (March 31) that it had reached an agreement to join the CPTPP Trans-Pacific Free Trade Partnership after 21 months of negotiations, its biggest trade deal since Brexit . In doing so, the United Kingdom becomes the first country in Europe to join the CPTPP, which will thus have 12 countries for a GDP of 11,000 billion pounds sterling (12,500 billion euros), said Downing Street in a press release. The bloc brings together 500 million inhabitants and 15% of world GDP with the United Kingdom.

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Highlighting the fact that the United Kingdom could not have joined this partnership if it had still been a member of the European Union, Downing Street praises the way in which the country "seizes the opportunities" of its "new freedoms post-Brexit trade”, while the benefits of exiting the bloc are still pending. More than 99% of British goods exports to CPTPP countries are exempt from customs duties, notes Downing Street, which cites flagship products such as cheeses, cars, chocolate, machinery, or even gin and whiskey. The service sector will also benefit from reduced red tape. Eventually, the contribution to the British economy will reach 1.8 billion pounds sterling (2.45 billion euros), according to estimates cited by London.

"This deal demonstrates the real economic benefits of our post-Brexit freedoms ," said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. By joining the CPTPP, the United Kingdom places itself "at the center of a group of dynamic and growing Pacific economies" , he welcomed, quoted in the press release. “UK businesses will now benefit from unrivaled access to markets from Europe to the South Pacific ,” he added. Trade Minister Kemi Badenoch highlighted the benefits in terms of jobs for British businesses and access to a wider gateway to the Indo-Pacific region, from where it is expected “the majority of global growth” .

The UK and CPTPP member countries must now finalize the final legal and administrative steps before the agreement is formally signed this year. Since its effective exit from the EU and the European single market on January 1, 2021, the United Kingdom has been seeking to forge all-out trade agreements to boost its international trade. London has notably concluded commercial treaties with the EU and other European states, but also with more distant countries such as Australia, New Zealand or Singapore. Discussions are underway with India or Canada. On the other hand, the agreement so longed for by the British with the United States is long overdue and negotiations with Washington are stalling.

Signed notably by New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Japan, the CPTPP is the most important free trade pact in the region. Former US President Donald Trump announced on January 23, 2017 his country's withdrawal from this agreement, to which his country was initially a party, even before its entry into force - which has been taking place in stages since December 2018. The United Kingdom had applied to join the CPTPP in February 2021. Negotiations had started in June of the same year.Last November, Rishi Sunak said his country had to “take the time” to negotiate good trade agreements with its partners in the wake of Brexit, contrasting with the desire of his predecessors to conclude such agreements quickly.

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