The UK has reached an agreement to join the Asia-Pacific trade bloc

The UK unveiled a deal to join the 11-nation Asia-Pacific trade bloc on Friday, with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claiming it proved his government was embracing “post-Brexit freedoms”.

Negotiations for Britain to become a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership have finally concluded after two years of haggling over quotas and tariffs.

The UK will be the first country to join the CPTPP since the group was formed in 2018, and Sun said the trade deal would bring economic benefits and increase the “Asia-Pacific” relationship to Britain’s foreign policy.

Current members of the CPTPP are Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam.

Sunak said: “At heart we are an open and free trading nation and this deal demonstrates the real economic benefits of our post-Brexit freedoms.

“Joining the CPTPP trade bloc puts the UK at the center of a dynamic and growing group of Pacific economies, as the first new nation and the first European country to join.”

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More than 99 per cent of UK goods exports to CPTPP countries will now qualify for zero duty, including products such as cheese, cars, chocolate, machinery, gin and whisky, according to Downing Street.

However, according to the government’s own forecast, the economic benefit to Great Britain is minimal and will do little to offset the EU trade losses suffered as a result of Brexit.

The government estimates that the CPTPP agreement will increase the UK’s gross domestic product in the long term only 0.08 percentalthough it was said that this could increase further if Thailand and South Korea joined the group later.

But Britain’s decision to join the CPTPP strengthens its economic presence in a region that is preoccupied with how to respond to the rise of China, which is seeking to join the trading bloc.

Trade Minister Kemi Badenoch said the deal was the most significant trade agreement signed by the UK since Brexit and could grow in importance as its Pacific Rim countries rise.

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It says the deal protects vital UK interests, including agriculture and the NHS, and upholds high animal welfare and food safety standards.

However, the CPTPP agreement is controversial, with particular criticism for reducing British tariffs on Malaysian palm oil imports, the production of which has been linked to rainforest destruction.

Daniela Montalto, head of forestry at Greenpeace UK, described the deal as “outrageous”, adding that cutting palm oil duties would only encourage further destruction.

Another contentious issue raised by the deal was the entry of beef from Canada into the UK.

Canadian beef is currently not sold in the UK because the country’s cattle are treated with hormones that are banned in Britain.

Under the CPTPP agreement, the UK sets an annual quota of 13,000 tonnes of Canadian beef imports.

But the meat has to meet UK food regulations, meaning little is likely to be sold in Britain.


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