International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will speak to ministers in Japan and New Zealand to request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), with formal negotiations set to start this year.
According to the government, joining the CPTPP would deepen the UK’s access to fast-growing markets and major economies, including Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Joining the £9tn partnership will cut tariffs for UK industries including food and drink, and cars, while also creating new opportunities for modern industries like tech and services.
UK trade with the group was worth £111bn in 2019, growing by 8% a year since 2016.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “Joining CPTPP will create enormous opportunities for UK businesses that simply weren’t there as part of the EU and deepen our ties with some of the fastest-growing markets in the world.
“It will mean lower tariffs for car manufacturers and whisky producers, and better access for our brilliant services providers, delivering quality jobs and greater prosperity for people here at home.
“We’re at the front of the queue and look forward to starting formal negotiations in the coming months.”
Julian David, CEO of techUK, said: “Today marks an important step in the UK’s path to developing a modern trade policy that creates new opportunities for the UK tech sector. Building on our recent agreements with Japan and the European Union, the accession to the CPTPP will allow us to join a group of ambitious countries breaking the newest ground in digital trade.
“The UK has been a major beneficiary of the rise of digital trade with over 67% of service exports worth £190.3 billion being digitally delivered. CPTPP will open up new markets for innovative tech SMEs looking to grow and expand beyond our borders. We are looking forward to working with the government throughout the process.”
Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Chair, said: “Membership of the CPTPP would be a hugely welcome development to all small businesses looking to either expand or begin their trading journeys.
“Crucially, at the very heart of this agreement is an SME chapter, something that we have lobbied for the inclusion of in every FTA, ensuring that no business is left behind.
“This is truly a world-leading agreement and one that will genuinely help small firms to thrive and succeed more than ever.”
CBI President, Lord Karan Bilimoria, said: “This ambition marks a new chapter for our independent trade policy. As one of the largest free trade agreements in the world, these 11 countries contribute over £100bn to our economy.
“Membership of the bloc has the potential to deliver new opportunities for UK business across different sectors. The CBI will continue to work with the Government to ensure that firms get the most out of an agreement that will create jobs and deliver wide-ranging benefits to communities across the country.”