TOKYO: Members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are expected to agree this month on allowing Britain to join the free trade pact, Japanese government sources said on Wednesday.
If approved, it would be the first expansion of the 11-nation deal that currently covers about 10% of global economic output.
Britain’s accession is hoped to help build momentum for the return of the United States, which withdrew from the pact in 2017 during the administration of former president Donald Trump, the sources said. China is among other countries and regions that have also applied to join.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership was initiated by the administration of Barack Obama but ran into trouble when Trump took office. Japan subsequently led the effort to salvage the pact, which has been formally renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Ministers from the TPP members, including Japan, Canada and Australia, will meet online possibly this month, and their agreement on Britain will be formally approved by the partnership’s highest decision-making body as early as this year, the sources told Kyodo News.
TPP membership requires the approval of all participating countries.
In a sign of tilting to the Indo-Pacific region following Brexit, Britain in 2021 became the first non-Pacific country formally requesting to join the TPP. China, Taiwan and Uruguay followed suit.
Japan has taken a cautious stance on China’s potential membership amid concerns about Beijing’s compliance with rules on protecting intellectual property rights and other issues.
The other TPP members are Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said ministers were due to discuss the CPTPP with their counterparts later this week and there would be an update at the “earliest possible opportunity”.
Membership will supplement existing bilateral trade deals Britain has with several of the member countries, with the overall aim of further cutting tariffs on goods and reducing barriers to services and digital trade.
“The Government is working to ensure that the UK joins on terms that work for British business and are in line with domestic priorities,” the spokesperson said.