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The UK has struck a deal to join an 11-country trans-Pacific trade pact that includes Japan and Australia as it looks to deepen ties in the region and build its global trade links after leaving the European Union.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Britain had agreed to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), in a move his office said was the biggest trade deal since Brexit.
“Joining the CPTPP trade bloc puts the UK at the centre of a dynamic and growing group of Pacific economies,” Sunak said on Friday, adding the deal demonstrated “the real economic benefits of our post-Brexit freedoms”.
Britain has been looking to build global trade ties following its departure from the EU in 2020 and has looked to pivot toward geographically distant but fast-growing economies.
It is deepening its ties in the Indo-Pacific as its foreign policy framework casts China as an “epoch-defining challenge”.
Other members of the pact are Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Britain is the first new member to join the group.
Membership will supplement existing bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) Britain has with most of the member countries, and gives businesses extra options over the terms they can trade under.
The overall impact of the trade deal is set to be modest. Britain said the deal, which will cut tariffs on cars, spirits and dairy products, would boost the economy by Stg1.8 billion ($A3.3 billion) each year in the long run – a figure that could rise as more countries join the pact.
Britain has agreed new post-Brexit trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, and agreed an FTA with Japan in 2020. It is also in talks with Canada and Mexico.
Japan’s economy minister Shigeyuki Goto said Britain’s joining the pact was “a great significance” in further promoting free trade, open and competitive markets as well as economic integration beyond the Pacific Rim.
Regarding other economies that have applied to join, such as China and Taiwan, Goto said Japan would need to take a close look at whether they were “fully prepared to meet the high standards” of the trade pact.
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning reiterated Beijing’s opposition to Taiwan joining “any agreement or organisation of an official nature”, but said China entering the pact would be a good thing.
“China’s accession to CPTPP is not only in line with our own efforts to deepen reform and expand openness, but also conducive to CPTPP member countries’ expansion into China’s market and economic and trade cooperation with China,” she said.
Ecuador, Costa Rica and Uruguay have also applied for membership.