Sunak hails Britain joining Indo-Pacific trading bloc

Rishi Sunak hailed Britain’s acceptance as a member of a major Indo-Pacific trading bloc, saying it puts Britain in a “privileged position” in the global economy.

The UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) was formally confirmed in a phone call between Commerce Secretary Kemi Badenoch and his group counterparts.

It represents Britain’s biggest trade deal since leaving the EU, lowering tariffs for UK exporters to a group of nations that, with Britain’s accession, will have a total gross domestic product (GDP) of $11 trillion. sterling, representing 15% of world GDP. according to UK officials.

The prime minister said it demonstrated how the UK can use its “post-Brexit freedoms” to strike deals that were impossible when it was in the EU, which will boost economic growth across the country.

However, critics have said the impact will be limited, with official estimates suggesting it will add just £1.8bn a year to the economy after 10 years, representing less than 1% of UK GDP.

Labor said it was essential to ensure that UK guarantees on consumer safety, food safety, data protection and environmental protection were not compromised as a result of the deal.

Britain is the first new member and the first European nation to join the bloc, which comprises Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, since its formation in 2018.

It follows almost two years of negotiations, culminating in intense talks in Vietnam earlier this month, when representatives of the existing 11 members agreed for the UK to join.

While Britain already has trade deals with most CPTPP members, apart from Malaysia, officials said it would deepen existing deals, with 99% of UK goods exported to the bloc now eligible for zero tariffs.

Key UK exports to the region, including cheese, cars, chocolate, machinery, gin and whiskey, will be among those to benefit, while officials said the service industry would also enjoy reduced red tape and a greater market access.

At the same time, they said vital UK sectors, including agriculture and the NHS, will be protected, while existing animal welfare and food safety standards will be upheld.

It represents a continuation of the post-Brexit policy “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific region first started by Boris Johnson.

Sunak said it would put the UK at the center of a “dynamic” group of Pacific economies, giving British companies “unprecedented access to markets from Europe to the South Pacific”.

“We are at heart an open, free-trade nation, and this deal demonstrates the real economic benefits of our post-Brexit freedoms,” he said.

“As part of CPTPP, the UK is now in a unique position in the global economy to seize opportunities for new jobs, growth and innovation.”

The CBI hailed the deal as a “milestone” for British industry, reinforcing the UK’s commitment “to building partnerships in an increasingly fragmented world.”

Acting CEO Matthew Fell said: “CPTPP countries and companies must work together to future-proof the rules-based trading system and spur growth with a focus on resilient, services and digital supply chains. “.

Labor said that while the deal represented “encouraging” progress, it needed to see the details.

Shadow trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “The Conservative government’s record of getting good trade deals is desperately poor.

“Other countries joining CPTPP agreements have secured important safeguards and put support in place for their growers – it is vital that ministers establish whether they plan to do the same.”

Liberal Democrat trade spokeswoman Sarah Green said: “This Conservative government is responsible for some shocking trade deals that fail to add economic benefit to the UK.

“The Conservatives have wrecked the UK economy with stagnant GDP and this announcement won’t repair even a fraction of their damage.”


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