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Britain expected to join Indo-Pacific trade pact this week

29/03/2023    51

CPTPP deal is not yet final but an agreement in principle is due in the coming days, three people familiar with the negotiations tell POLITICO.

Britain is expected to get the green light to join a key Indo-Pacific trade bloc before the end of this week in a move that will solidify its post-Brexit foreign policy shift toward the region.

The U.K. would be the first new member to join the 11-nation bloc after it was first signed in 2018. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s breakthrough post-Brexit pact with the EU helped clear the way for Britain’s accession late last month.

Three people familiar with the negotiations confirmed to POLITICO Britain is expected to reach an agreement in principle to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) by the end of this week.

The deal is not one hundred percent final but it is “very likely” and “looking good” that it will happen this week, said one of the people familiar with the talks.

The pending agreement was first reported by Japan’s Fuji News Network, citing multiple Japanese government officials.

The deal will establish regulatory cooperation in a number of areas, including food standards, and will give the U.K. access to tariff-free trade with more countries in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly if South Korea and Thailand join in the future. It will also align Britain geopolitically with the region as set out in the government’s recent national security and foreign policy strategy.

Japan has led the U.K.’s accession process to join the bloc after the U.K. first applied in early 2021. Other members of the bloc include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Britain was on the cusp of getting the green light to join early this month during talks held in Vietnam, but Canada raised issues “at the last minute” and sought to get further concessions out of the U.K., said a diplomat from a member nation.

The impasse between Canada and the U.K. over market access was resolved in mid-March when Canadian trade chief Mary Ng visited London and met with Britain’s trade chief Kemi Badenoch.

Canada had pressed Britain to open up its beef market and offer similar agri-market access as it did to fellow CPTPP members Australia and New Zealand in early post-Brexit pacts.

Canada opted to deal with its demands over beef in bilateral negotiations on its own trade deal with the U.K., clearing the path for Britain to accede to the CPTPP trade bloc, two people familiar with the talks said.

A U.K. trade official said, “nothing’s finished until everything’s finished, and if everything was finished we’d have announced it.”

Source: Politico