The UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was formally confirmed in a telephone conversation between Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch and group colleagues.
It represents Britain’s largest trade deal since leaving the UK EUtariff reductions for British exporters to a group of countries which – with Britain’s accession – will have a total gross domestic product (GDP) of £11 trillion, accounting for 15 percent of global GDP, according to UK officials.
The prime minister said it showed how the UK can take advantage of its “post-Brexit freedoms” to strike deals that were impossible when it was in the EU and that will boost economic growth across the country.
However, critics have said the impact will be limited, with official estimates suggesting it will only add £1.8bn a year to the economy after 10 years, amounting to less than 1 per cent of Britain’s GDP.
Labor said it was essential to ensure that UK consumer safety, food safety, data protection and environmental protection safeguards were not compromised as a result of the agreement.
Britain is the first new member and the first European country to join the bloc – comprising Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – since its inception in 2018.
It follows nearly two years of negotiations, culminating in intense talks in Vietnam earlier this month, when representatives from all 11 existing members agreed to the UK joining.
While Britain already has trade deals with most CPTPP members, with the exception of Malaysia, officials said it would deepen existing arrangements, with 99% of British goods exported to the bloc now eligible for zero tariffs.
The UK’s main exports to the region, including cheese, cars, chocolate, machinery, gin and whiskey, will benefit, while officials said the service sector would also enjoy less bureaucracy and better market access.
At the same time, they said vital British sectors, including agriculture and the NHS, will be protected, while existing animal welfare and food safety standards will be maintained.
It represents a continuation of the post-Brexit policy “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific region first initiated by Boris Johnson.
Mr Sunak said this would put the UK at the center of a “dynamic” group of Pacific economies, giving British companies “unrivaled access to markets from Europe to the South Pacific”.
“We are an open and free trade country at heart, and this deal shows the real economic benefits of our post-Brexit freedoms,” he said.
“As part of CPTPP, the UK is now in an excellent position in the global economy to seize opportunities for new jobs, growth and innovation.”
The CBI hailed the agreement as a “milestone” for UK industry, reinforcing the UK’s commitment “to building partnerships in an increasingly fragmented world”.
Interim Director-General Matthew Fell said: “CPTPP countries and industry must work together to future-proof the rules-based trading system and drive growth with a focus on digital, services and resilient supply chains.”
Labor said while the agreement represented “encouraging” progress, it needed to see the details.
Shadow Trade Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “The Conservative government’s track record of getting good trade deals is abysmal.
“Other countries that have joined CPTPP schemes have provided important safeguards and support for their producers: it is vital that ministers spell out whether they intend to do the same.”
Liberal Democrat trade spokeswoman Sarah Green said: “This Conservative government is responsible for some shocking trade deals that give the UK no economic advantage.
“The Conservatives have wreaked havoc on the UK economy with stagnant GDP and this announcement won’t repair even a fraction of their damage.”