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Against all odds, Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a trade agreement with the EU after nine months of fraught negotiations. The deal was without a doubt a huge triumph for the Prime Minister, who two years ago won a thumping majority at the general election with the promise “to get Brexit done”. Many are wondering whether he will now be able to pull a similar move with the US – as the former Mayor of London had put an agreement with Washington at the heart of his plans to revive Britain after Brexit.
The election of Democratic President Joe Biden undoubtedly complicated things for him, though.
As he outlined his vision for his first few days in the White House in January, the new President confirmed he would not be prioritising a deal with the UK.
Instead, Mr Biden said he will adopt an “America First” policy, similar to former President Donald Trump’s, fighting “like hell” to invest in US firms and employees.
Alan Winters, director of the Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex, told Express.co.uk Britain might indeed have to brace itself for disappointment.
However, he argued that while the word “trade” has largely disappeared from American headlines of late, in sharp contrast to the days of Mr Trump’s presidency, President Biden could decide to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), instead.
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.
It covers nearly 14 percent of the global economy.
The earlier incarnation of the partnership, the TPP, was originally conceived as an economic pillar supporting former US President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia”.
However, US participation was scrapped by former President Donald Trump on his third day in office.
With Democrat Joe Biden in the White House, many believe things could change.
Professor Winters said: “Remember the CPTPP is the child of the TPP, and Biden was a great advocate.
“There was serious talk that Biden’s first move could be going back to the CPTPP.
“He hasn’t done it for fairly predictable reasons.
“He would like it to be fresh negotiations but mainly, Biden isn’t particularly into trade.”
Even if it does not look as a priority, the trade expert noted “there would be lots the US could fit into it”, though.
On whether joining the CPTPP would be prioritised over a trade deal with the UK, Mr Winters added: “On purely technical terms, yes.
“The US has more to gain from joining the CPTPP. Biden would be more interested.
“Unless the Brits roll over, it would also be easier. You have to remember, the UK is relatively small.
“This is the problem, you don’t have this huge market to wave in front of citizens.”
Britain formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in February, with negotiations set to start later this year.
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Mr Johnson said in a statement: “One year after our departure for the EU we are forging new partnerships that will bring enormous economic benefits for the people of Britain.”
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss believes membership of the partnership would boost trade that was worth £111billion last year and has been growing eight percent per year since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016.
Ms Truss argued membership will “complement” existing free trade agreements between the UK and countries including Japan, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Vietnam, which were “rolled over” from previous EU deals.
Speaking to the BBC, Ms Truss declined to say what effect CPTPP membership would have on the UK economy but she insisted the Pacific region was important as a centre of “future growth”.
Brexiteers hailed the move as proving the future success of Global Britain.
North west Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said: “We don’t need the EU any more.
“This just confirms the massive opportunities Brexit is already bringing to this country.”