Canada and UK 'make progress' on CPTPP dispute

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Canada and the UK are said to have resolved a dispute over market access that was holding up the latter's application to join the CPTPP.

Trade ministers from the UK and Canada have made positive progress on resolving a dispute between the two countries that had threatened to stall the UK's accession to the multilateral  Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade bloc.

It was reported by Politico that UK international trade secretary Kemi Badenoch and her Canadian counterpart Mary Ng met up in London this week to settle their differences and get negotiations back on track.

The UK is aiming to join the 11-member trans-Pacific bloc in order to boost its trading relations post-Brexit. However, it was reported earlier this month that issues raised by existing member Canada at a meeting in Vietnam had led to talks stalling.

Politico stated that Ottawa has been demanding increased access to the UK for its agricultural sector - similar to those offered in recent free trade agreements (FTAs) with Australia and New Zealand - as a condition for its support.

Canada is currently looking to negotiate its own separate bilateral FTA with the UK, and officials have suggested the country is "playing hardball" with CPTPP in order to win more concessions for this.

However, a senior Canadian official told the news provider that the latest talks had helped overcome this dispute and the two sides are "now wrapping up final negotiations" on market access in order to break the impasse. 

"As the first member of the CPTPP to support the UK accession, we are pleased that negotiations [are] now in the final stages - for the benefit of our people and workers," they added.

While current members of the CPTPP have generally expressed positivity about the UK joining the pact, there is a desire to ensure that negotiations are handled carefully in order to make certain the process sets a good precedent for future applications - particularly that of China.

A government official from an unnamed CPTPP nation also told Politico they are "wary" of the UK's efforts, and that it will be in the country's interest to ensure it meets the highest standards for market access in order for the application to be approved.