By Graham Zebedee and Natalie Black
Graham Zebedee is chief U.K. negotiator for accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. Natalie Black is Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific.
British officials are in Tokyo this week, meeting with representatives from some of the most dynamic economies in the world — the 11 nations that comprise the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
This free trade agreement is part of the remarkable legacy of Shinzo Abe, who, as prime minister of Japan, cemented this deal, covering a market of over 150 million people and a combined gross domestic product of more than $10.8 trillion. It now serves as a coalition of the like-minded to support the rules-based international order within the Indo-Pacific region.
Abe’s vision is more relevant now than ever. CPTPP stands as a beacon for free trade and high standards in a region where the contest between rules-based trade and unfair practices is particularly intense.
Its strong intellectual property protections, provisions that support free and trusted cross-border data flows and measures to tackle market-distortive practices are all principles that the U.K. is proud to champion. We have enshrined them in the bilateral agreements that we have already concluded with many CPTPP members.
The U.K.’s accession to CPTPP would be a strong signal of the growing international consensus in favor of free, rules-based trade. As the engine room of the global economy, the Indo-Pacific is the region that will set the standards and forge the rules that govern the technologies and services of the future.
The U.K. is eager to partner with CPTPP economies to ensure that those rules are fair, open and fit for purpose. The U.K.-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement signed earlier this year illustrates both our commitment and the potential. The pact has brought together two tech powerhouses in the world’s most innovative trade agreement, sets the rules of the road for the tech sector and creates mechanisms to deepen our cooperation in the years ahead.
The Indo-Pacific region is also a crucible for many of the most pressing global challenges, from climate change and biodiversity to inclusive economic growth and development.
The CPTPP has high environmental and labor standards, and members hold each other accountable for meeting these rules. The U.K. is committed to similarly high standards and to working with CPTPP members to ensure that trade acts as a force for good in promoting development, women’s economic empowerment, and action against climate change and environmental degradation.
For all of these reasons, the U.K. is proud to be the first country in the world to start negotiations to join the CPTPP family. As a large, liberal economy, and a strong advocate of free trade, we believe our membership would help the group to exercise even greater influence in shaping the rules of the global economy.
As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and an active member of the Group of Seven, Group of 20 and the World Trade Organization, we will use our global influence to champion this agreement and the broader values we all share. Our accession will create an even stronger incentive for others to join, amplifying the impact of this high-standards trade group.
U.K. accession would also bring more immediate trade benefits for existing CPTPP member countries. The U.K. is the fifth-largest economy in the world, with a market of 67 million consumers, and would be the second-largest economy in the CPTPP.
The CPTPP removes tariffs on close to 100% of trade, making members’ exports more competitive in the U.K. and U.K. goods and services cheaper for consumers and businesses in other member nations.
Manufacturers will be able to include more components in their products from across CPTPP nations and still qualify for beneficial tariff rates on their exports.
This is especially important at a time when countries are diversifying their supply chains and seeking new market opportunities. Freer access to each other’s service sectors, such as in transport and logistics, will help strengthen global value chains and support the development of resilient economies.
By lowering trade barriers and facilitating open markets, CPTPP has a central role to play in mitigating the impact of rising inflation and tackling the current widespread cost-of-living crisis. The U.K. is ready to play its part in this global endeavor.
We intend to continue demonstrating the U.K.’s deep commitment to this vital, dynamic part of the world. We hope talks on the U.K.’s accession can be concluded during 2022.