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Businesses welcome UK's plan to join one of the world's biggest free-trade areas

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
Cargo ship terminal, Unloading crane of cargo ship terminal, Industrial port with containers and container ship.
According to the government joining CPTPP would cut tariffs for UK sectors such as cars, food and drink. It will also create new opportunities for industries including tech and services. Photo: Getty

The UK could soon join one of the world’s largest free-trade zones, which include countries like Canada, Australia and Japan.

International trade secretary Liz Truss will on 1 February seek permission for Britain to become a member of the Trans-Pacific trading area, which is currently made up of 11 nations.

Trade with the countries in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was worth more than £110bn ($152bn) in 2020.

The CPTPP is made up of New Zealand, Brunei, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The 11 countries together count for around 13% of global economic output.

It will be almost a year to the date when the UK officially left the EU on 31 January 2020.

Watch: UK seeks to join the Asia-Pacific free trade pact

According to the government joining CPTPP would cut tariffs for UK sectors such as cars, food and drink. It will also create new opportunities for industries including tech and services.

Under the free trade deal, tariffs on 95% of goods traded between member nations are removed.

Businesses groups have hailed the UK’s plan to join the bloc, saying it would be a “would be a hugely welcome development.”

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Mike Cherry said that an agreement would mean that a “huge market would suddenly become a lot more accessible to small businesses,” if the UK joined.

"Crucially, at the very heart of this agreement is an SME (small medium sized enterprises) chapter, meaning that the interests of small businesses have been seriously thought about and they will hopefully be able to positively gain from this.”

According to the FSB, 45% of small businesses have said that they see the CPTPP region as a “priority market to access over the next three years.”

Cherry added: "The agreement contains cutting-edge provisions to help businesses trade, including self-certification of rules of origin, removal of barriers to the free flow of data, and extensive commitments on the temporary entry of business persons.”

READ MORE: Asia just created the world's largest trading bloc with 15 economies

Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “One year after our departure for the EU we are forging new partnerships that will bring enormous economic benefits for the people of Britain.”

Johnson added that applying to be the “first new country to join the CPTPP” shows the UK’s “ambition to do business on the best terms” with “friends and partners” across the globe.

Truss said that joining CPTPP will create big “opportunities for UK businesses” that “weren’t there as part of the EU” and deepen Britain’s “ties with some of the fastest-growing markets” in the world.

She added: “It will mean lower tariffs for car manufacturers and whisky producers, and better access for our brilliant services providers, delivering quality jobs and greater prosperity for people here at home.”

The trade secretary said that formal negotiations are due to commence in the coming months.

In November, leaders from 15 Asia-pacific countries created the world’s largest trading bloc after signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) after a decade of talks.

The pact covers nearly a third of the world's population, it also accounts for 30% of global gross domestic product (GDP) and will reach around 2.2 billion consumers.

Watch: What are freeports?