LONDON: The British government said Saturday that it will formally apply for Trans-Pacific Partnership membership to become the first new country to join the 11-nation free trade area led by Japan.
The application “demonstrates our ambition to do business on the best terms with our friends and partners all over the world and be an enthusiastic champion of global free trade,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
The remaining 10 TPP members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
On Monday, British International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will hold telephone talks with Japanese officials including economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, also minister for the TPP, to start the official application process. This year, Japan serves as TPP chair.
The TPP member nations will set up a working group to discuss whether to admit Britain.
Besides Britain, China, South Korea and Thailand have expressed their readiness to consider joining the TPP. Also, there are calls for a U.S. comeback to the regional trade deal.
The TPP deal entered into force in December 2018. Its 11 members account for 13 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Britain, which was the sixth-largest economy in 2019, would boost the share to 16 percent if it joins the TPP.
Japan and other TPP members have expressed the stance of welcoming Britain’s participation.
Between Japan and Britain, a bilateral free trade agreement took effect in January this year.
Britain can pursue an independent trade policy after its exit from the European Union in January last year.
As expected benefits of its TPP participation, the British government cites a drop in tariffs on whisky exports to Malaysia and a speedier tariff removal for vehicles exported to Canada.