Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday hailed UK’s “post-Brexit freedoms” as the country joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade bloc comprising 11 countries spanning the Indo-Pacific region.
Downing Street said the historic agreement follows two years of intense negotiations by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) and puts the UK at the heart of a dynamic group of economies, as the first European member and first new member since the CPTPP was created.
The UK would not have been able to join the bloc as a member of the European Union (EU), something the Brexit-backing Sunak has highlighted as a big win.
“We are at our heart an open and free-trading nation, and this deal demonstrates the real economic benefits of our post-Brexit freedoms,” said Sunak.
He said, as part of the CPTPP, the UK is now in a prime position in the global economy to seize opportunities for new jobs, growth and innovation.
"Joining the CPTPP trade bloc puts the UK at the centre of a dynamic and growing group of Pacific economies, as the first new nation and first European country to join. British businesses will now enjoy unparalleled access to markets from Europe to the south Pacific,” he said.
The bloc – made up of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – is home to an estimated 500 million people and is forecast to be worth 15 per cent of global GDP once the UK joins.
According to official estimates, joining the bloc is expected to boost the UK economy by 1.8 billion pounds in the long run, with wages also forecast to rise by 800 million pounds compared to 2019 levels.
A cut in tariffs on exports for UK industries including food, drink and cars and new advantages for business are among the positives being highlighted by the British government.
“This is an important moment for the UK. Our accession to CPTPP sends a powerful signal that the UK is open for business and using our post-Brexit freedoms to reach out to new markets around the world and grow our economy,” said UK Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch – who is also in charge of the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with India.
She said joining the CPTPP will support jobs and create opportunities for companies of all sizes and in all parts of the UK.
"It is about giving British businesses improved access to the countries that will be a gateway to the wider Indo-Pacific region which is projected to make up the majority of global growth in the future,” she said.
Negotiations to join the CPTPP began under former prime minister Boris Johnson in June 2021 and concluded after what has been described as an intensive round of talks in Vietnam earlier this month, with representatives from all member countries agreeing to the UK’s accession.
Downing Street stressed that the pact protects the UK’s vital industries and entities, including agriculture and the National Health Service (NHS), and upholds high animal welfare and food safety standards.
"Dairy farmers will benefit from lower tariffs on exports of products like cheese and butter to Canada, Chile, Japan and Mexico, building on 23.9 million pounds of dairy products we exported to these countries in 2022," it said.
The UK’s membership is seen as linked with its wider foreign policy focus on the Indo-Pacific region as a key pillar, which has 60 per cent of the world’s population. It is set to account for the majority (54 per cent) of global economic growth and around half of the world’s billion middle-class consumers in the decades ahead.
“As more economies join the bloc, UK businesses will benefit from access to new markets,” Downing Street said.
It added that the UK and CPTPP members will now take the final legal and administrative steps required for the UK to formally sign during the course of this year.
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