UK opens up trade opportunities by joining Trans-Pacific Free Trade Partnership

After twenty-one months of negotiations, London has landed its biggest trade deal since Brexit

UK opens up trade opportunities by joining Trans-Pacific Free Trade Partnership

After twenty-one months of negotiations, London has landed its biggest trade deal since Brexit. The United Kingdom announced on Friday March 31 that it would join the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Partnership.

It thus becomes the first country in Europe to join the CPTPP ("Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership") which will thus include twelve countries for a GDP of 11,000 billion pounds sterling (12,500 billion euros), Downing Street said in a statement. The bloc has 500 million inhabitants and 15% of world GDP with the United Kingdom. London and the CPTPP member countries must now finalize the final legal and administrative steps before the agreement is formally signed this year.

Highlighting the fact that the United Kingdom could not have joined this partnership if it had still been a member of the European Union (EU), Downing Street praises the way in which the country "seizes the opportunities" of its "new post-Brexit commercial freedoms", while the benefits of exiting the bloc are still pending.

Exemptions from customs duties

More than 99% of UK goods exports to CPTPP countries are duty free, notes Downing Street, citing key products such as cheese, cars, chocolate, machinery, gin and whiskey. The service sector will also benefit from reduced red tape. Ultimately, 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 UK is placing itself "at the center of a group of dynamic and growing Pacific economies", he said in the statement. "UK businesses will now enjoy 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 which is expected "the majority of global growth".

The agreement between London and Washington is stalling

Since its effective exit from the EU and the European single market on January 1, 2021, the United Kingdom has been seeking to establish 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 in particular 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 the withdrawal of his country 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 submitted its application to join the CPTPP in February 2021. Negotiations had started in June of the same year. Last November, Rishi Sunak said his country needed to "take the time" to negotiate good trade deals with its partners in the wake of Brexit, contrasting with the desire of his predecessors to conclude such agreements quickly.