On 1 February, one year after leaving the EU, the UK submitted a formal request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was agreed in principle in October 2015, attracting significant attention as a model for future Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). In January 2017 the newly elected Trump administration announced its withdrawal from the TPP, leaving the remaining 11 countries to agree the revised CPTPP in October 2018, without the involvement of the US. The CPTPP came into force in December 2018. The UK will become the first country outside of the original 11 signatory parties to join the agreement and it is expected that more countries will follow in the future.

Under the agreement, following the UK’s formal submission, a working group will be established to negotiate the terms and conditions for the UK’s accession (Art. 30.4.3(a) of the CPTPP). With the UK having already agreed to the Japan-UK Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, and currently negotiating FTAs with both Australia and New Zealand, negotiations around electronic commerce are anticipated to be straightforward, while tariff and service-sector negotiations could take more time.

If negotiations go well and the UK eventually becomes a member of the CPTPP, it will be important for companies with trade relations with the UK to consider whether they would use the individual FTAs that countries who participate in the CPTPP will have at the time with the UK, or the new CPTPP agreement, in particular in the areas of tariffs and rules of origin. The UK’s participation would broaden the geographical reach of the CPTPP and significantly increase the combined GDP of the bloc. Such development hints at the further potential of regional agreements, including the expansion of the CPTPP to surrounding countries.