According to Japan’s economic minister, members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreed on Wednesday to allow Britain to begin the process of entering the accord.
Following Britain’s exit from the European Union at the end of 2020, the decision is another move in the country’s aspirations to pivot away from Europe, develop global influence, and develop new commercial relationships with faster-growing economies.
After hosting an online conference of ministers from the 11 nations that make up the trans-Pacific trade pact, Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters that he welcomed the start of Britain’s membership process.
“The United Kingdom’s potential membership would support the mutual interests, common values and commitment to upholding the rules-based trading system shared by the members of the CPTPP,” the 11 member countries said in a statement.
“It would also promote market-oriented principles and help to counter protectionism and the use of unjustified trade restrictive measures.”
Membership is seen by British ministers as one of several ways of building influence in the region to help promote free trade and act as a counterweight to China – which it accuses of undermining trade and distorting markets with state subsidies.
The CPTPP removes 95% of tariffs between its members: Japan, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, Chile and Malaysia. Unlike the EU, it does not aim to create a single market or a customs union, and it does not seek wider political integration.
The United Kingdom’s admission into CPTPP would bring the nominal gross domestic product of the zone covered by the pact almost on par with that of the EU, Nishimura said.
Liz Truss, the British Trade Minister, said she was pleased with the decision and would present her plans to parliament in the coming weeks.
Britain has yet to release its economic evaluation of the pact’s benefits.
The procedure starts with the formation of a working group to review Britain’s compliance with the agreement. Britain stated that it would engage with Japan, which is chairing the group this year, to expedite the negotiations.
In February, the United Kingdom submitted a formal request to join the trade agreement. It will be used to supplement bilateral agreements that the UK has or is seeking with member nations. Last October, the United Kingdom and Japan reached their first big post-Brexit trade agreement.