|Can the UK join these Pacific nations in a regional FTA? It’s far-fetched.|
I am utterly befuddled by British officials giving lip service to the idea that they wish to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deserted last year by the United States. Now formally known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or CPTPP with its 11 remaining parties working towards an agreement, its inclusion of the UK would be an eyebrow-raiser in many respects.
First off, and this is quite obvious, the UK is an outsider in geographic and organizational terms. Since it’s neither in Asia or in the Pacific Ocean, it is obviously not qualified to be in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) which all CPTPP members are part of and which gave rise to the idea of a TPP. Or so I believe…
Britain is reportedly exploring joining the Trans Pacific-Partnership (TPP), as part of efforts to map out its trade future after Brexit. Ministers have held informal talks on joining the proposed free trade group that includes 11 countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, according to the Financial Times. And International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has not ruled out the UK joining the TPP.
Its qualifications to join CPTPP aside, the economic rationale may not be there despite Asian countries which form its backbone being faster-growing than mature European economies. Having complained about “Brussels” shaping UK policy without meaningful input, how do you think Asian countries would regard a European Johnny-come-lately making a long list of demands to join an FTA it isn’t a natural fit for? Simply put, it would likely receive next to no concessions:
However, the very possibility of the UK entering into these talks has drawn criticism. Labour MP and Open Britain supporter Chuka Umunna says new trade deals “would not come close to making up for lost trade with the EU after a hard Brexit”.
And if the UK did join the TPP, it risks holding “little leverage” in talks, according to Aaron Connelly, research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy. He says nations are highly unlikely to reopen negotiations on sensitive matters, simply to accommodate the UK. Given the urgency to seal a deal, Mr Connelly warns the UK would be a “price taker” on the terms of the pact, particularly in areas like pharmaceuticals, state-owned enterprises, labour and the environment. “If Brexit was about symbolically taking back control in these areas, then joining the TPP would do little to accomplish that,” he added.
If the UK was in such a hurry to get out of its region’s integration effort, why is it in such a rush to get into another one where it doesn’t geographically belong? That is the question. To most impartial observers, it was better off staying in the grouping where it already was instead of thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the world. Sure, it can make a bilateral FTA with CPTPP member countries if and when the latter is formed, but its chances of being a CPTPP “founding” member are rather iffy.