Exporters welcoming reports United Kingdom wants to join Trans-Pacific Partnership

Liam Fox the International Trade Secretary
Credit
Oli Scarff  AFP

The Financial Times reports ministers have held informal talks on joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which brings together 11 nations across Asia and the Americas and is being renegotiated after the United States withdrew from it previous year.

However, the UK's junior trade minister Greg Hands said there was no geographical restriction that would prevent Britain's participation.

The government is considering joining a free trade area on the Pacific rim that includes Canada, Mexico and Japan once Britain has left the European Union.

It would be the first member of the trade deal, properly called the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Paternship, to not border the Pacific Ocean or the South China Sea.

It's understood Britain is looking at options to join the 11-nation agreement, which is in the final stages of negotiation after a bouncing between completed and dead in the water at the APEC Summit in Vietnam in November.

"We don't know what the success of the TPP is going to yet look like, because it isn't yet negotiated", he said.

However, even mention of Britain entering negotiations has been met with scepticism from some trade experts who argue it's unlikely to lead to a deal - and even if it did happen, the United Kingdom would not have much clout.

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

The U.K. exported just 1.6% of its goods to Japan in 2016, according to data compiled by the Observatory of Economic Complexity-and Japan is the largest economy in the TPP.

In a column for conservative website Conservative Home, the secretary of state for global trade argued that perceptions of Brexit in Britain are at odds with what he is seeing overseas and that it presents a new opportunity for British trade and investment.

Fellow non-euro country Sweden has long seen Britain as one of its closest partners in the union, and concerns have been raised that pressure for Sweden to join will increase when its ally leaves the EU.

Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader, said: "This plan smacks of desperation".

The next phase will focus on the long-term relationship between Britain and the EU.

He said: "It is not the main event and at the moment the government is making a hash of that". "It's all pie in the sky thinking".

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