The U.K. government applied to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on February 1.
This is the first official application to join since those of the current members at the time of the TPP’s inception. If the U.K. is added to the group, the TPP trading bloc will extend beyond the Pacific Rim.
With global trade currently taking a hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity to propel free trade together with Britain is a significant move. It will also contribute to making the high degree of liberalization and advanced common rules developed under the TPP the global standard. We welcome the British government’s decision.
Japan is the chair country of the TPP this year, and has been the main driving force of the 11 remaining nations in the bloc since the U.S.’s departure. The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Japan and the U.K. just took effect in January. Now we want Japan to take the lead in terms of negotiating the U.K.’s inclusion in the TPP.
Other countries such as Taiwan and South Korea have also expressed an interest in joining the TPP. With this in mind, the U.K.’s application can be a catalyst that brings in other nations.
At the same time, the U.S., which has a special relationship with the U.K., should be encouraged to follow Britain’s move and rejoin the TPP.
Since leaving the EU, the U.K. has become free to select its own trade policies, and it has decided that joining the TPP would be necessary as a new platform for free trade. It is significant that a major European country, which shares values with Japan such as freedom and democracy, is trying to deepen its economic ties with TPP member nations.
Essentially, the TPP wants to establish a free and fair trading block while keeping its distance from China, which seeks military and economic hegemony in the region. The move by the U.K. to strengthen its relationship with countries other than China matches the TPP’s essential purposes.
China has been looking to increase its presence by joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which Japan is also a member of.
However, the fact that the TPP trade bloc – which demands a higher level of liberalization than the RCEP – is looking to expand is significant, considering China.
Regarding negotiations with the U.K., we must remember that China has also expressed an interest in joining the TPP. Yet the TPP forbids favorable treatment to state-owned companies, something which China will find difficult to accept. If standards are relaxed during negotiations with the U.K., it could make it easier for China to join the TPP.
We must not forget to preserve TPP standards when negotiating with the U.K., and to maintain that as a model when further expanding the TPP in the future.