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The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership heralds a new trading era for the United Kingdom

City of London (Caption: Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo)

4 min read

The United Kingdom’s impending membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is a huge win for this country.

We are about to become the first new nation to join this powerful group since the trade bloc – which spans from Asia to the Americas – was formed. The original founding members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam. 

Of course, this deal, our biggest since Brexit, did not happen by chance. Our negotiators spent almost two years on round after round of talks to secure the best possible agreement for the UK. 

I am thrilled they have achieved a deal that does exactly that – truly delivering on the government’s post-Brexit agenda for a modern, trading Global Britain. So, what are the opportunities of CPTPP membership?

First, our companies will have greater access to vast markets, representing 15 per cent of global gross domestic product, once we join. Once the ink is dried on the deal more than 99 per cent of current UK goods exported to CPTPP members will be eligible for tariff-free trade.

CPTPP membership opens a gateway to the wider Indo-Pacific – one of the most dynamic and rapidly-growing regions on Earth

In addition, our already world-leading services firms will enjoy greatly reduced red-tape and business travel will become smoother. This means a British firm will be able to operate on a par with a Vietnamese one, without setting up a Hanoi branch. Services firms will also be confident of a level playing field, governed by clear-cut rules when doing business within the trade bloc.

These are all huge advantages. Yet, some commentators have disproportionately focused on membership’s immediate benefits to the UK, while overlooking its longer-term gains. Such a myopic approach ignores how profoundly the global economy is changing. By 2050 Malaysia and Vietnam are forecast to join fellow CPTPP members Australia, Canada and Japan – along with the UK – among the world’s top 30 economies.

CPTPP membership also opens a gateway to the wider Indo-Pacific – one of the most dynamic and rapidly-growing regions on earth. The figures speak for themselves; the Indo-Pacific is expected to drive global economic growth over the coming decades and become home to half the world’s middle class by 2035.

Our membership of CPTPP means we will be well-positioned to enter these markets and develop deeper economic and geo-strategic partnerships within the region.

Understandably, some have questioned what this deal means for our agricultural sector. Like many of my colleagues in Parliament, my constituency of Mid Worcestershire is predominantly rural, so I understand these concerns.

However, CPTPP means that UK farmers will benefit from increased market access for food and drink products, including through tariff-free exports to Mexico for beef, pork and poultry. They will also receive new zero-tariff access to Canada’s butter and cream market.

Our cheesemakers will have new market access to additional shared quotas – equating to about 7.5 times the amount we exported to Canada last year. And our distillers will benefit from the elimination of tariffs of around 80 per cent on UK whisky to Malaysia within a decade. There is, of course, no question of the UK reneging on its food and animal welfare regulations because of CPTPP membership. Nor will our farmers have to compete with a wave of imports of chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-fed beef. 

In fact, it is a fundamental principle of UK trade policy for there to be no compromise on these areas. All food and drink will still have to meet our domestic import requirements.

Our membership of CPTPP opens a new era for this country as a trading nation. I am convinced we will feel its benefits both in the short-term and over many decades to come. 

Nigel Huddleston, Conservative MP for Mid Worcestershire and minister for business and trade

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