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Chief negotiators – the EU‘s Michel Barnier and the UK’s David Frost – ended the first round of UK-EU trade talks last week. After four days of discussions, the two sides appeared to agree on some technicalities in areas like transport and energy, but failed to make progress on any key issues. Both parties highlighted “significant differences”, despite the talks having a “constructive tone”.
In particular, the British negotiating team highlighted a failure to agree any common ground on issues such as governance and so-called level-playing-field provisions around competition.
While the UK and Brussels is set for a showdown in the second round of negotiations – scheduled to start on March 18 in London – a trade deal with the US appears to be a lot more straightforward, as the two sides seem to share the same view on what constitutes fair competition between the two economies.
Moreover, in an interview with Express.co.uk, former Ukip MP Douglas Carswell claimed that there are numerous other FTAs sitting on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lap.
He said: “I think if you look around the wider world, it is pretty obvious that we will be looking at the economies with a similar GDP per capita to ours.
“There is Canada, Australia, New Zealand…
Douglas Carswell reveals the numerous FTAs sitting on Boris Johnson’s lap
Britain’s top Brexit negotiator David Frost in Brussels
“Maybe even Israel.
“With countries like that it will be very simple to do FTAs based on mutual standards and recognition.”
Mr Carswell noted: “The interesting question for me is ‘what about China and India?’
“We are not yet in a world where you would want to have mutual standards and recognition with China and India with all products.
“But I think there are areas where you could start to see that.
“Little Switzerland has an FTA with China and it is great for Switzerland and for China.
“Size is not important.”
In a column for The Spectator, Alexander Downer, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs in Australia, echoed Mr Carswell’s claims and revealed what he believes is the most attractive agreement for Britain: the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump
Former Ukip MP Douglas Carswell
He explained: “The CPTPP is a high-quality free trade agreement which binds together Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico, Malaysia, Peru, Chile and Brunei.
“The Bush and Obama administrations were also keen to participate in the CPTPP – indeed the negotiations were driven initially by the Americans – but President Trump decided to withdraw.
“Despite the Americans backing out, the other 11 members decided to proceed with the agreement.
“So the CPTPP covers nearly 14 percent of the global economy and is the third largest free trade area in the world.”
Mr Downer noted that Australia and Japan have already informally pledged its support for British membership and others are unlikely to raise major objections.
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Former International Trade Secretary Liam Fox
The only obstacle, the former Foreign Minister said, would be an intellectually irrelevant but geographically pertinent argument that the UK is not in the Asia-Pacific region.
He added: “If all CPTPP members were willing to accept the UK, negotiations would be swift.
“The agreement, after all, could not be re-engineered for the UK.
“CPTPP is comprehensive and its application to the UK would be uncontroversial. Tariff and non-tariff barriers between the UK and the other 11 members would largely disappear. Investors would be protected from capricious policy changes by member governments which were in breach of the terms of the agreement. Environmental and labour standards would be maintained. And, yes: no one would attack the NHS.”
The agreement would then give the UK access to markets which constitute 13 percent of global GDP and would place the country in a fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.
According to former International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Britain could strike the partnership by the end of 2021.