The UK's intention to submit a formal request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) amid the challenges faced by the Covid-19 pandemic has been welcomed by Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O'Connor.
Members of the trade agreement currently includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
"New Zealand sees the CPTPP objective of maintaining and growing open, rules-based trade, as more important than ever," O'Connor said today in a statement.
"We believe the CPTPP can provide leadership in our region and beyond to drive post-Covid economic and trade recovery. The UK’s move to join the CPTPP underlines the Agreement’s importance in this regard."
O'Connor says the UK government must now present a letter to New Zealand, the Depositary for the CPTPP, formally expressing its interest in joining the 11-member trade agreement.
It will then be followed by a discussion between all current members on the UK's request, and the establishment of a working group to negotiate UK accession to the Agreement.
“New Zealand has always supported the expansion of the CPTPP by those willing to meet the Agreement’s high quality, so we warmly welcome the news that the UK intends to take the formal step shortly to start this process,” O'Connor said.
The UK is set to be the first to make a formal request following the entry into force of the CPTPP, he said, and will serve as an important precedent which "reinforces the commitment of new members to fully deliver the high standards, including on market access, that are a hallmark of the CPTPP".
"We look forward to discussions with the UK to achieve this outcome."
New Zealand launched trade negotiations with the UK in June 2020 and is "working to achieve an ambitious, comprehensive and inclusive bilateral Free Trade Agreement". The conclusion of a "high quality, comprehensive and future-focused" Fair Trade Agreement between both countries will serve as a "valuable stepping stone" towards the UK joining the CPTPP, O'Connor said.
The UK, New Zealand’s sixth largest trading partner, saw two-way trade of almost NZ$6 billion in 2019.
The UK's departure from the European Union last year has seen the country move to launch a range of new trade negotiations, including the US, Australia and New Zealand.