The UK has taken a significant step towards joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a major trading bloc in the Indo-Pacific region. On Sunday, UK Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch signed an accession protocol in Auckland, New Zealand, after 21 months of negotiations with existing CPTPP members.
The signed agreement will now undergo scrutiny from the UK Parliament and existing CPTPP members. If approved, the UK’s membership could come into effect in the second half of next year. Badenoch described the deal as the UK’s biggest trade agreement since Brexit and emphasized that it demonstrates the country’s commitment to global trade.
According to Badenoch, joining the CPTPP will provide the UK with enormous opportunities and unparalleled access to a market of over 500 million people. The CPTPP currently includes 11 member countries such as Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia. With the UK’s inclusion, the bloc’s total GDP is estimated to reach $15.7 trillion.
However, some analysts argue that the significance of this agreement for the UK may be largely symbolic. The UK government itself estimates that the CPTPP is worth just 0.08% of its GDP. Nick Thomas-Symonds, the UK shadow secretary of state for international trade, emphasized that the government needs to outline how this agreement will benefit the economy and provide support to businesses looking to access export opportunities.
The CPTPP originated from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was initially created by the US to counter Beijing’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. However, the TPP fell apart after former President Donald Trump withdrew US involvement. The remaining members then restructured the agreement and established the CPTPP.
China’s potential accession to the CPTPP poses an interesting dilemma for the bloc. Both China and Taiwan have submitted membership applications in 2021, and opinions vary among member countries. Singapore and Malaysia believe China’s entry could lead to more reform and openness from Beijing. However, American allies such as Japan, Australia, and Canada have expressed reservations. Experts speculate that China’s accession could face opposition from the US, potentially vetoing its entry despite not being a member anymore.
The prospect of the UK joining the CPTPP reflects the country’s strategy of diversifying its trading relationships after leaving the European Union. By aligning with major economies in the Indo-Pacific region, the UK aims to expand its trade opportunities and reduce dependence on any single market.
In conclusion, the UK’s formal signing of the accession protocol demonstrates its intention to join the CPTPP and tap into the dynamic and growing Indo-Pacific market. However, the agreement’s actual impact on the UK’s economy remains a topic of debate, and the accession process will undergo further scrutiny before becoming official. The possible entry of China and Taiwan creates an additional layer of complexity for the bloc, with differing opinions among member countries on this matter. Nonetheless, the UK’s aspirations to strengthen its global trade ties and enhance its economic prospects have led to this significant step towards becoming part of the CPTPP.