| 26 October 2021, Tuesday |

Britain sees Tran-Pacific trade deal next year, no date yet for U.S. accord

Britain’s trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said on Wednesday that she does not know when a full trade agreement with the United States would be reached, but that she hopes to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership next year.

Trevelyan was only appointed last month and saw many of her key counterparts for the first time earlier this week at a gathering of ministers from the Group of 20 major economies, including U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

Both the United Kingdom and the United States want a free trade agreement, but there is no schedule for discussions yet, according to Trevelyan.

“We haven’t scheduled anything yet. What we have is a continual discussion about the possibility of looking sector by sector at those key sectors that we know will fall within that whole, comprehensive accord once it is fully implemented “Trevelyan remarked.

The British government once touted a trade deal with the United States as one of the most valuable benefits of leaving the European Union, but since Joe Biden’s election as president of the United States, the prospect of a quick agreement has all but vanished as his administration conducts a broader review of trade policies.

“Free trade agreements are monster, terrible papers,” Trevelyan added. “You may work on specific chapters and make good progress while thinking about the big picture.”

London, on the other hand, hopes to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in 2022, according to the minister.

The CPTPP trade agreement between Japan, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, Chile, and Malaysia eliminates 95 percent of tariffs between its 11 countries.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to tie it down next year,” the minister expressed his excitement.

Joining the CPTPP in its current format could add less than 0.1% of pre-pandemic gross domestic product over the long term, according to British government modelling. But ministers say it locks in market access and is an important way to gain influence in a region increasingly dominated by China.


London is also looking to shore up trade with old European Union partners, which suffered at the start of the year when Britain exited the bloc’s single market and customs union.

Latest data from Italy showed that British imports were down 9.9% in August year-on-year – the only major nation to see a decline. By contrast, imports from Russia rose 107%, from China 42.5%, from India 87.3% and from the United States 17.4% as global trade recovered from the coronavirus pandemic.

The British trade department said on Wednesday it would pursue a new partnership with Italy to promote trade.

Recent data also suggests that Britain is on course to lose its status as one of Germany’s top 10 trading partners this year for the first time since 1950.

Trevelyan said trade disruption was a temporary phenomenon.

“The logistics of changing systems that businesses have had to learn to use … post Brexit have triggered a few issues that have mostly been ironed out,” she said.

In a statement ahead of this week’s G20 meeting in southern Italy, Trevelyan said she would push her counterparts to support a reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and complained about “market-distorting practices” of other countries — criticism that is regularly directed at G20 member China.

“Some (delegations) were in very entrenched positions and some were clearly in positions that had moved forward,” Trevelyan said, without giving further details.