The UK government says joining the CPTPP would remove tariffs on food, drink and cars, while helping to boost the tech and service sectors.
The UK has announced that it will formally apply to join an 11-country trans-Pacific trade bloc next week, with negotiations set to begin later this year.
A year after officially leaving the European Union, the British government said on Saturday it wanted to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which removes most of the tariffs between Australia, the Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is due to meet with Japanese and New Zealand officials on Monday to officially make the request.
“One year after leaving for the EU, we are forging new partnerships which will bring enormous economic benefits to the British people,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
The United States, the world’s largest economy, is not part of the partnership; former President Donald Trump, withdrew the country from its predecessor, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. China, the world’s second largest economy, does not belong either.
The UK’s goal in joining is to benefit from lower tariffs for the UK economy. The government says the partnership removes tariffs on 95% of goods traded between members.
“Applying to become the first new country to join the CPTPP demonstrates our ambition to do business on the best terms with our friends and partners around the world and to be a strong champion of global free trade,” said Johnson.
UK trade with the partnership was worth £ 111 billion ($ 152 billion) in 2019, with Japan accounting for nearly a quarter. Although substantial, the amount is about six times less than the UK’s business with the EU.
Emily Thornberry, shadow secretary for international trade for the opposition Labor Party, criticized what she called a lack of transparency surrounding the decision to join the CPTPP.
After five years of debate over Brexit trade deals, she said people would question the UK government’s decision to “rush to join another halfway around the world without any meaningful public consultation.”
She added: “At present, Liz Truss cannot even guarantee whether we would have the right to veto China’s proposed membership if we join the bloc first.”
Truss previously said that CPTPP membership would provide “enormous opportunities,” including lower tariffs for automakers and whiskey producers, as well as “the creation of quality jobs and greater prosperity for people from here ”.
Karan Bilimoria, chairman of the UK’s largest business lobby group, the Confederation of British Industry, said the move marked a “new chapter for our independent trade policy”.
“Membership in the bloc has the potential to create new opportunities for UK businesses in different sectors,” he said.