Britain to go the distance for Pacific trading deal


The UK's trade secretary has argued it is too soon to seek membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after reports emerged that Britain held informal talks with members of the bloc.

Greg Hands, Trade Minister, refused to list any country after Creasy's Parliamentary Question, saying that "the United Kingdom has met with a wide range of countries to discuss various aspects of our trading relationship".

The first is that the remaining 11 members of the TPP have not yet concluded their mandate and the scope of the bloc's trade agreements. The 11 signatories, also including Japan, last November reached a broad accord on a revised TPP deal. If the proposals go ahead Britain would be the first member of the trade agreement which does not have borders on the Pacific Ocean or the South China Sea.

At the end of previous year, Britain received the approval of EU member states to move to the second stage of the exit negotiations - those for the UK's trade relationship with the European Union.

Analysts have mused that TPP could be a major boost for China, which could fill the vacuum of economic firepower created by US's withdrawal.

However, news of London reportedly entering negotiations with the group has been met with skepticism from trade experts.

"With these kinds of plurilateral relationships, there doesn't have to be any geographical restriction", he said.

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A Department for International Trade spokesman says it is "early days" in the UK's quest to sign new deals.

The Communication Workers of America union claimed the deal would be a "complete disaster" as it could incentivise corporations to move service sector jobs to lower-wage economies such as Vietnam.

He said: "It is not the main event and at the moment the government is making a hash of that".

For some supporters of leaving the European Union the opportunity to do new trade deals was one of the great attractions.

Britain is said to be drawing up plans to join a trade group based on the other side of the world after Brexit.

Those include the TPP having not yet been ratified and the considerable uncertainty over the UK's final deal with the EU. "It's all pie in sky thinking".