The signatories of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) have approved the UK’s request to begin negotiations to join the trade agreement, which marks the first process of joining the CPTPP since the Pacific Compact . entered into force in December 2018.
“The start of a membership process with the UK offers an opportunity to advance the high-quality CPTPP rules for the 21st century and further promote free trade, open and competitive markets and integration. in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond ”said the 11 CPTPP signatories in a joint statement June 2, 2021.
A membership working group will now meet regularly to work out the details of the UK’s membership, including how it will agree to the terms of the CPTPP and what will constitute its market access commitments. According to decision approving the UK’s accession negotiations, this working group will be chaired by Japan, with Australia and Singapore as vice-chairs, and with all CPTPP parties and the UK represented.
“Membership of the CPTTP is a huge opportunity for Great Britain”, mentionned Liz Truss, UK Secretary for International Trade. “This will help shift our economic center of gravity from Europe to the faster growing regions of the world and deepen our access to massive Asia-Pacific consumer markets.”
The signatories of the CPTPP are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Viet Nam. Among them, seven have ratified the agreement, the agreement being in force for them. Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia and Peru have not yet completed the ratification process.
The sweeping trade deal attracted international attention during its negotiation, given the stated ambition of the participants to set a new bar for the development of trade rules in Asia-Pacific. If some of its provisions, such as in the areas of the environment or labor, have been greeted by supporters because they are more ambitious and enforceable than those of many trade agreements, some critics argue that these could have gone further. Others note that the benefits also run the risk of to be undermined through other aspects of the agreement, such as the inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism in its investment chapter.
The CPTPP has also generated controversy in other policy areas, notably with regard to the provisions of its chapter on intellectual property rights (IPR). Although some of these provisions were suspended after the United States took of of the agreement in early 2017 – when it was still called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – many remain in place.
Several other countries have floating interest joining the CPTPP as well, although neither has reached the same stage as the UK, which will also become the first non-Pacific party if membership talks are successful. It is also unclear whether the US Biden administration will eventually apply to re-join – and, if so, if it would push to reinstate the suspended provisions and push for further changes – at this point.
The timetable for the UK’s accession negotiations has yet to be announced, and several questions remain, including how developments in other ongoing negotiations – such as the UK’s negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, respectively, for bilateral trade agreements – will be taken into account in the process.
The agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia is reportedly being final stages of negotiation, with officials saying a tentative deal could take a few days. The UK also trade agreements in force with several other CPTPP signatories, including Japan and Chile, which are in effect renewal agreements that replicate existing trade agreements when the UK was still an EU member state.
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By Sofia Baliño, Communications and Editorial Manager, Economic Law and Policy, IISD