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The United Kingdom is keen to trade with Canada through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), said Britain’s International Trade minister, Janil Jayawardena, on Wednesday.
The minister was speaking at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s virtual executive summit on “re-globalization in a business-led recovery.”
The U.K. and Canada have a long and successful trade relationship, and they need each other to nurture their respective industries, Jayawardena said.
The U.K. made a formal request to join the CPTPP on Feb. 1, and is now awaiting a decision.
“In true government speak, ‘soon’ is the answer I can give you,” Jayawardena said.
The CPTPP is a free-trade agreement signed by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. It came into force in 2018 and makes up 13 per cent of the world’s gross domestic products.
The U.K. is Canada’s largest European trading partner, and the two countries have been operating under an agreement which replicates the terms of Canada’s Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union since Brexit.
Jayawardena said Britain is eager to join the CPTPP because of its “values-driven” trade vision. The pact supports economic growth that’s consistent with two countries’ shared values of democracy, rule of law, high standards, and sovereignty, he said.
When asked if there are barriers to joining the agreement, Jayawardena said trade deals often come down to agriculture, because countries often have different agricultural standards.
But international trade shouldn’t involve forcing one country’s standards on another, he said. Rather, members of agreements should be flexible for products which are shipped internationally.
“(It’s) a potential stumbling block if we let it become one, but I actually think it’s a huge opportunity,” he said.
In response to a request for comment, International Trade Minister Mary Ng’s office directed iPolitics to her conversation on Tuesday with Liz Truss, the U.K.’s secretary of state for international trade.
According to a readout of the discussion, Ng and Truss discussed the U.K.’s application to join the CPTPP. Ng said Canada had recently concluded consultations with Canadians about negotiations with the U.K.
The public consultations, which are now closed, allow interested Canadians to provide a written submission to Global Affairs Canada about the negotiations, for the purpose of identifying what’s important to Canadians in negotiations with the U.K.
China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand have also expressed an interest in joining the CPTPP.