The UK is weighing up the potential benefits of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after it leaves the European Union, according to a leading minister.
Britain's international trade secretary Liam Fox has confirmed that the UK would not rule out membership of the new-look TPP pact, which is currently being renegotiated following the withdrawal of the US last year.
Press reports have indicated that UK ministers have already held informal talks about the pros and cons of joining TPP, with trade minister Greg Hands telling the Financial Times there was no geographical restriction on Britain getting involved with multilateral trade agreements, even those in remote parts of the world.
TPP's 11 current members are Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Peru, Vietnam and Malaysia, meaning that Britain would theoretically become the first member that does not border the Pacific Ocean or the South China Sea.
Mr Fox said that any report linking the UK with a firm stance on possible TPP membership is "rather overblown", noting that talks over the future direction of the free trade agreement following the US withdrawal remain in an early stage, meaning the final shape of the deal is not yet known.
He said: "It is not fully negotiated yet, so we will want to see what emerges. But, on the other hand, we would be foolish to rule anything out. We know that Asia-Pacific will be a very important market and we know a lot of the global growth in the future will come from there."
Currently, it is estimated that the 11 TPP nations account for just under eight per cent of UK exports. It would be hoped that membership of the TPP bloc would increase this.