Britain is starting negotiations to join a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is made up of 11 countries including Australia, Canada and Japan.
New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam are also founder members of the trade area, which was established in 2018 and covers a market of around 500 million people.
The UK applied to join CPTTP in January after leaving the European Union.
“This part of the world is where Britain’s greatest opportunities lie,” commented International Trade Secretary Liz Truss. “We left the EU with the promise of deepening links with old allies and fast-growing consumer markets beyond Europe, and joining the high-standards Trans-Pacific Partnership is an important part of that vision.”
According to the Department for International Trade, membership would open new markets for Britain’s services industries, reduce tariffs on exports such as cars and whisky, and create new opportunities for UK farmers.
CPTPP has strong rules to support workers’ rights, as well as strong environmental provisions. The bloc also has strong rules against unfair trade practices like favouring state-owned enterprises, protectionism, discriminating against foreign investors, and forcing companies to hand over private information.
The free trade area would “uphold the UK’s right to regulate in its national self-interest, rather than forcing harmonisation on its members,” the UK government said.