UK begins talks to join CPTPP - what will this mean for world trade?

Industry News | | MIC Customs Solutions |

Another member in the form of the UK could make a difference to the CPTPP - and vice versa.


Following its recent application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the UK has now officially begun talks with the other member nations that it hopes will begin the accession process.

But what does the UK hope to gain by joining the bloc, and what will the effects be on the other countries and the rest of the world? Here, we'll take a closer look.

Discussions begin

The British government reported earlier this month that it was to be included in a virtual meeting alongside CPTPP stalwarts including Australia, Japan, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand.

New international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said it was a "big milestone on our path to joining" and would allow the UK to "forge stronger links both with old friends and some of the world's fastest-growing economies".

She added that the next step will be for trade minister Penny Mordaunt to visit Chile and Peru  in person to "explore deeper trade and investment ties".

What is the CPTPP?

The CPTPP evolved out of the former Trans-Pacific Partnership (which then-US president Donald Trump pulled out of in 2017) and is viewed as a major region for world trade.

Altogether, its countries are home to some 500 million people generating around 13 percent of the world's collective income. The CPTPP has eliminated 95 percent of tariffs on goods trade between its 11 member nations around the Pacific Rim since its inception.

Why does the UK want to join?

The British Department for International Trade has expressed an interest in joining the bloc based heavily on the fact that doing so would reduce tariffs on products such as cars, food and beverages. Indeed, around 95 percent of import charges or levies could be lifted through membership, representing a significant benefit for traders.

Other plus points include better market access to members like Mexico and Vietnam and preferential treatment under 'rules of origin' for products made from components manufactured within CPTPP nations.

This may help manufacturers of goods such as medicines and machinery in particular, as the UK sends significant amounts of these products overseas and its traders are sure to appreciate the reduced costs and improved supply chain links that should come as a result.

Another benefit is that under the CPTPP, members are not required to have identical standards and can negotiate their own free trade agreements, unlike Britain's membership with the EU. This means the UK would be free to forge economic links worldwide without having to worry about bureaucratic red tape.

And a final, particularly alluring aspect is that the US may yet be tempted to return to the CPTPP under Joe Biden's administration. Mr Biden has proved decidedly lukewarm on signing a bilateral deal between the US and the UK so far, but the two would be able to trade preferentially together were they both CPTPP members.

"We want to harness the potential of free trade to drive economic growth and work together on a post-coronavirus revitalization. Being a member of CPTPP will help us achieve these goals. It is a high standards agreement with modern provisions," said Ms Mordaunt in an interview with Small Cap News.

Is acceptance likely?

If it were accepted, the UK would be the first European and second-largest member of the CPTPP - and it looks as though this is a likely outcome as it stands at present.

Britain's high standards for things like manufacturing and its reputation for adhering to international laws will work in its favour, as will the fact that Britain is an attractive market for goods coming from other CPTPP member states.

Japan has already spoken out as the current chair of the CPTPP Joint Commission to back Britain's application and pointed out that its joining the bloc would help to modernize other members' economies.

Meanwhile, Latin America and the Caribbean are on-side due to the potential boost to trade and investment the UK could offer them.

What's more, there have been suggestions that this joining together of a new partnership could encourage China to trade more favorably with the rest of the world via the CPTPP, something that can only be beneficial.

Given these advantages, it could be that we are looking at a question of when Britain will become a member, rather than if.