Sunak Sees Brexit Boost as UK Nears Indo-Pacific Trade Bloc Deal.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed the prospect of the UK joining an 11-nation Indo-Pacific free-trade bloc, amid expectations that accession will be agreed as soon as Friday.
The UK is widely expected to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, as it seeks to strengthen economic ties with new partners following its divorce from the European Union. 
“We’ve made fantastic progress in the negotiations about CPTPP but we’re not there yet,” Sunak told reporters Thursday during a visit to the UK Atomic Energy Authority in Oxfordshire, north of London. “But taking a step back, this is a great benefit of Brexit, our ability to go and sign exciting trade deals around the world.”
Britain will be the first new CPTPP member since the bloc’s formation five years ago. Other members include Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. 
The UK already has bilateral trade deals with more than half of the 11 member states, but joining the pact would further ease trade with a bloc of nations representing about 13% of global economic output. CPTPP membership is seen by Sunak’s government as a key opportunity to begin reversing the economic impact of a steep trade decline with the EU, Britain’s biggest partner, since its exit three years ago.
Trade ministers are meeting Thursday and are expected to give the green light to the UK’s membership, with an announcement likely to follow on Friday.
Since Brexit, the UK has sought to tilt its foreign policy toward the Indo-Pacific region, with Sunak striking a pair of defense agreements with Australia and Japan earlier this year, part of an effort to counter China. 
CPTPP membership will further align Britain with the region and require it to follow the bloc’s standards on products, including food. Joining will also give the UK a more direct say in regional affairs. 
“China has applied to join, and it could probably convince/coerce quite a few of the CPTPP members into saying yes,” trade expert Sam Lowe, partner at consultancy Flint Global, wrote on his blog. “Once a member, the UK will just say no to China. This provides cover for other members and effectively allows them to hide behind the welcome obstinance of the UK.” 
Still, the economic gains for Britain are limited. The UK’s own projections, published in 2021, show that joining CPTPP will only boost the UK economy by 0.08%, partly due to the existence of bilateral deals. That could increase if membership expands to other nations, like Thailand and South Korea. 
“There may also be future gains from new members joining, and CPTPP will also bring us closer to important allies for retaining open global markets such as Japan and Singapore,” said David Henig, director of the UK Trade Policy Project at the European Centre for International Political Economy. 
Even so, this is a “shallow” trade deal that mostly focuses on lower tariffs “in the same way that our existing free trade agreements with nine of 11 members do,” Henig said.

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