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British and Canadian officials say the move should speed up negotiations for a bilateral deal between the two countries, since they’ve already established common ground on issues such as labour rights and supporting small businesses through the Pacific deal.
Ottawa and London have been operating under an interim trade deal since the U.K. left the European Union, but that post-Brexit deal expires next year.
“It’s a good day. We have always been supportive of the U.K. (joining the bloc), right from Day 1,” Ng said in an interview.
“We share values. We have interoperability in many of our sectors. We essentially have collaborated throughout our history,” she said, adding the new development means Canada and the U.K. can collaborate together in new markets.
Ng said the trade deal has boosted Canadian exports to the bloc by nearly one-fifth in four years, and by as much as 40 per cent in Southeast Asia.
“If you look at countries like Vietnam, it just jumps out at you,” she said. “It’s a good agreement, but having the United Kingdom in there helps us do something else … on the net-zero industries of the future.”
The U.K. would be the first member to not touch the Pacific Ocean, aside from the remote Pitcairn Islands, a British overseas territory that sits between New Zealand and South America.
Britain’s membership will still need to be formally ratified by all members of the bloc. Once that happens, Ng said the Brits can boost Canada’s efforts to form closer ties with countries across Asia.
“We really are doing more work to strengthen our relationships with friends and allies who also share our values, like a rules-based international order, and the U.K. is that friend is that ally,” Ng said.
“So having the U.K. in the CPTPP strengthens what Canada is doing in the Indo-Pacific.”
Hugh Stephens, a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, has previously argued that Canada would benefit from having Britain in the bloc, because having another advanced economy in the group would incentivize more Asian countries to join it.
Last November, a senior Global Affairs Canada official had told MPs that “there is still work to be done” for Britain to join the trade bloc, in part because the original signatories saw the U.K. as a test case for letting in the first member after the launch of the original agreement, which would “sets the bar” for other applicants.
Assistant deputy minister Paul Thoppil made those comments to the House of Commons committee on Canada-China relations, which on Thursday released a report on relations with Taiwan.
In the report, MPs recommended that the government support Taiwan’s bid to join the CPTPP, both to show support for democratic countries and to boost trade with the island, which serves a critical role in technical manufacturing.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2023.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press