Today the United Kingdom signed a treaty joining a powerful trading alliance with 11 Pacific nations, including Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and Peru. It is the first accession to the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement since its inception in 2018 and opens the way for members to consider other applications, including from China and Taiwan.
The signing was part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) meeting that took place this weekend in New Zealand. Today, ministers from member states will meet to discuss a number of issues, including how to proceed with new applications and reviewing the agreement itself.
British Business and Trade Secretary Kimmy Badinoch said her country was delighted to become the first new member of the CPTPP. “This is a recent and ambitious deal, and our joining this exciting bloc shows that the UK’s doors are open for business,” Badenoch said. The British government has not yet ratified the agreement.
CPTPP is a landmark trade agreement agreed in 2018 between 11 countries including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Britain will become the twelfth member of the Treaty on Lowering Trade Barriers in the Pacific. This is an important step for British international politics after it leaves the European Union in 2020.
China, Taiwan, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Ecuador have also applied to join the CPTPP.
“We continue to discuss how to collectively proceed with accessions in a manner that reflects all of our interests and maintains the high standards that were originally set,” the CPTPP statement said.
China’s application to join the agreement is now next on the list if it is processed in the order in which it was received, but the country faces a series of hurdles to be included. CPTPP requires countries to eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs, make a strong commitment to opening up markets for services and investment, and uphold advanced rules on competition, intellectual property rights, and foreign business protection.
Damien O’Connor, the New Zealand Trade Minister who chaired the CPTPP party meeting, told a news conference that he did not know when a decision would be made on future membership. “It’s a complicated area,” O’Connor said of membership applications, adding that no country-specific application was discussed Sunday. China opposed Taiwan’s request.