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The first round of talks on the UK joining a trans-Pacific trade bloc gets under way today.
Britain will join a virtual meeting with the members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The 11 members of the free-trade agreement are: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan – who replaced Liz Truss a few weeks ago in the government reshuffle – called it a “big milestone on our path to joining CPTPP”.
The UK applied to join in February and the group said in June that the process could begin.
The other members have met previously to discuss the application but Tuesday’s meeting will be the first with Britain also involved.
It lays the foundations for the UK’s entry into the bloc, with Ms Trevelyan saying a deal would allow the country to “forge stronger links both with old friends and some of the world’s fastest-growing economies”.
“Joining this high-standards partnership will provide real opportunities for UK exporters and service providers and help our innovators open up new, diverse markets,” she said.
“Seizing opportunities like this is exactly what Global Britain is about and will help bring high-quality jobs and prosperity to every region of our country.”
Trade minister Penny Mordaunt is to also visit Chile and Peru – two of the CPTPP nations.
She said she would “explore deeper trade and investment ties” in meetings with Chile’s agriculture minister and her Peruvian counterpart, as well as regional businesses.
The UK has been trying to secure trade deals since Brexit, but hopes of an imminent tie-up with the US were played down by Boris Johnson last week.
He refused to promise a deal would be done by 2024 and said President Biden had “a lot of fish to fry”.
However, Mr Johnson did sign a free-trade pact with Australia in June – the first major deal since leaving the EU.
The government is also keen for a similar arrangement with India, with the Department for International Trade saying in August that it hoped to start negotiations by the end of the year.