The UK Government has announced that it has substantially concluded negotiations on the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a free trade agreement (FTA) including 11 member nations.

CPTPP is a trade bloc that is populated by around half a billion people with a joint gross domestic product (GDP) of £9 trillion in 2021. In the long run, joining CPTPP could lead to a £1.7 billion boost to UK exports to other CPTPP countries.

According to the Government, over 99% of British goods exports to CPTPP member countries will be eligible for zero tariffs, improving goods market access for British firms. Exporters of dairy products, including cheese and butter, will get greater access to lower tariffs in Canada, Japan and Mexico; and exporters of chocolate will benefit from zero tariffs on exports to Mexico and Malaysia.

Existing members of the Partnership include: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Far more considered

Responding to the CPTPP trade agreement, NFU president Minette Batters said: “Joining the CPTPP could provide some good opportunities to get more fantastic British food on plates overseas. 

“Compared to the deals struck with Australia and New Zealand, I am pleased to see that the Prime Minister has stuck to his word and the Government has negotiated a far more considered and balanced outcome, particularly with respect to managing market access in our most vulnerable sectors. I will continue to press Government to ensure its domestic policies are aimed at improving the competitiveness of British farming and strengthening our domestic food security. 

“I am pleased that our Government continues to maintain its commitment to our food safety standards. It is an absolute red line for us that food produced using practices that are illegal here – for instance, the use of hormones in beef and pork production and chemical washes for carcases – should not be allowed on our market.”

An important step

Rupert Ashby, chief executive of the British Frozen Food Federation commented: “The British Frozen Food Federation is pleased to learn of confirmation of the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). This trade agreement is good news for British businesses throughout the frozen food supply chain which are looking forward to more efficient trade relations with the Asia-Pacific region.

“Frozen food producers, distributors and retailers which have faced difficulties since the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union will be reassured that this new trade agreement is expected to boost the UK economy by £1.8bn in the long run, with more than 99% of UK exports to the bloc now eligible for zero tariffs.

“Frozen food has become an increasingly popular choice for consumers looking for high quality and affordable options in their weekly shop and I know that our members will seek to reach more international markets through this trade opportunity.”

Atul Bhakta, CEO of One World Express, said: “The UK has been crying out for major trade deals for two years now. This is what was promised in the aftermath of Brexit, but it has taken a long time for meaningful trade agreements to be formed, either with major global powers or sizeable trading blocs.

“Now, we have to be realistic about how significant this particular deal will be. After all, the Government itself predicts a boost to the economy by £1.8 billion; in other words, increase its size by less than 0.1%. It is clearly not a game-changer, and no doubt critics will be quick to jump on that. 

“But, that said, opening up access to a market of 500 million people, with many goods free from tariffs, this trade deal should not be derided. The UK is the first European nation to join the CPTPP. It will undoubtedly open up new opportunities for British businesses to export globally, and anything that reduces red tape and helps the export market should be celebrated. It might not be a landmark deal for the UK, but it is one that should be welcomed all the same – it is an important step in the creation of the UK as a post-Brexit trading powerhouse.”