European Interest

UK could join Pacific free trade zone

Flickr/Number 10/CC BY-NC 2.0
Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the UK wanted to see how the TPP evolved after America’s exit from it before making such a move.

The United Kingdom could join Trans-Pacific Partnership after Brexit, according to Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. He and other ministers held informal talks on joining a multi-nation Pacific free trade zone, according to press reports.

According to the BBC, Fox, who is on a visit to China, suggested the press reports were “rather overblown” as it was not clear what the reconstituted TPP would “look like”.

“It is not full negotiated yet so we will want to see what emerges,” he said.

“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.”

Fox said the UK wanted to see how the TPP evolved after America’s exit from it before making such a move.

In the run-up to Brexit on 29 March 2019, he said his priority was to ensure that the UK continued to derive the full benefits from existing EU trade agreements – and then to work on developing bilateral trade agreements with key partners such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership’s 11 members are Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Peru, Vietnam and Malaysia. US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement last year.

The 11 TPP signatories accounted for less than 8% of UK exports last year, according to research by the Observatory of Economic Complexity at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Trade Minister Greg Hands said there was no geographical restriction on Britain joining apparently far-flung trade groups.

“Nothing is excluded in all of this,” he said. “With these kind of plurilateral relationships, there doesn’t have to be any geographical restriction.”

According to the BBC, however, Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said it would not in any way make up for what he feared would be the economic downsides of Brexit.

“Of course it is right to disown Trump’s nationalistic and short-sighted approach to Pacific countries but far-flung trade deals will never compensate for leaving the world’s largest market sitting on our doorstep,” he said.

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