Members of the vast trans-Pacific trade deal agreed on Wednesday to start the process for Britain to join the pact as the country pursues its post-Brexit commerce strategy.
Britain applied in February to join the 11-nation deal, signed in 2018 by countries including Japan, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam and Australia. The deal known as the TPP-11, had been slated to become the world’s largest trade pact before Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2017.
After an online meeting of the members hosted by Japan, they said in a joint statement that they had “reached a decision to commence an accession process” for Britain. The move would be “significant from the viewpoint of establishing a free and fair economic order”, Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters. He said it would strengthen the relationship between Japan and the United Kingdom, who in October signed their own post-Brexit trade deal, largely similar to the previous EU-Japan accord.
Britain formally left the European Union in January 2020 after nearly five decades of membership, and quit its single market and customs union at the start of this year. It has replicated or rolled over existing trade agreements with the bloc and several countries, but is yet to strike an entirely new deal with any government. London is currently in advanced trade deal discussions with Australia and has held early talks with India, New Zealand and the United States.
The initial iteration of the trans-Pacific deal was seen as part of former US president Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia. But Trump’s withdrawal soon after becoming president left the remaining members to move ahead with a revised agreement in 2018.