UK Signs Treaty to Join Indo-Pacific Trade Bloc CPTPP


The UK has formally signed the treaty to join a vast free trade area spanning the Indo-Pacific region, in a move the government says will be a “big boost for British businesses.”

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch signed the accession protocol to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in Auckland, New Zealand, on Sunday.

The UK is the first new member, and the first European nation, to join the bloc—comprising Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam—since its formation in 2018.

It represents Britain’s biggest trade deal since leaving the EU, cutting tariffs for UK exporters to a group of nations which—with Britain’s membership—will have a total gross domestic product (GDP) of £12 trillion, accounting for 15 percent of global GDP, according to UK officials.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said previously that the deal “will help us unlock the benefits of Brexit” and put Britain in a “prime position” in the global economy.

But critics say that the deal will bring about very limited benefit, as the UK already has free trade deals with all CPTPP members except Brunei and Malaysia—and some of the trade deals were rolled over from Britain’s previous EU membership.

It is thus far from making up for the losses caused by Brexit, which the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted will cut UK GDP by 4 percent.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said last month that the Tories were being “dishonest” by claiming CPTPP membership would make up for lost trade in Europe.

‘Independent Trading Nation’

Despite its modest economic impact, the trade secretary hailed the deal as a Brexit success.

Speaking ahead of the signing in Auckland, Badenoch said: “I’m delighted to be here in New Zealand to sign a deal that will be a big boost for British businesses and deliver billions of pounds in additional trade, as well as open up huge opportunities and unparalleled access to a market of over 500 million people.

“We are using our status as an independent trading nation to join an exciting, growing, forward-looking trade bloc, which will help grow the UK economy and build on the hundreds of thousands of jobs CPTPP-owned businesses already support up and down the country.”

The signing is the formal confirmation of the agreement for the UK’s membership, which was reached in March after two years of negotiations.

Britain and the other 11 CPTPP members now begin work to ratify the deal, which in the UK will involve parliamentary scrutiny and legislation to bring it into force.

Officials estimate it will come into force in the second half of 2024, at which point the UK becomes a voting member of the bloc and businesses can benefit from it.

While Britain already has trade agreements with the CPTPP members apart from Malaysia and Brunei, officials said it will deepen existing arrangements, with 99 percent of current UK goods exports to the bloc eligible for zero tariffs.

Dairy producers will gain export opportunities to Canada, Chile, Japan, and Mexico, while beef, pork, and poultry producers will get better access to Mexico’s market, according to officials.

Some of the everyday items from CPTPP nations that will become cheaper for UK consumers thanks to the deal include Australian Ugg boots, kiwis from New Zealand, blueberries from Chile, and Canadian maple syrup, according to the Institute of Export and International Trade.