The UK is reportedly exploring joining the 11-country Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP) bloc, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.
The TPP agreement is part of the Obama legacy and one of the first decisions of the Trump Administration was to withdraw US support, as Washington no longer believes in multilateral trade. However, Canada, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam remain committed to the agreement.
Currently, these countries hold an 8% share of British exports, most prominently Japan.
The British Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, does not rule out exploring the trade bloc although currently is still consulting with TPP member states. If the UK were to join the TPP, it would be the first state joining the trade group that is not geographically located either in the Pacific or the South China Sea.
The agreement slashes tariffs across a number of sectors, aspiring to market integration resembling the European Single Market.
Critics in the UK suggest that TPP does not “compensate” for the possible loss of Single Market access championed by Liam Fox. Moreover, the UK would once again be a “rule-taker” as signatories are not likely to adjust TPP rules to UK demands. That may be significant both for the pharmaceutical sector, as well as regulation pertaining to state-owned enterprises, labour market and environmental standards. In sum, the fear is there would be less rather than more control.