Britain has struck a deal to join a significant trans-Pacific partnership, calling it the biggest trade deal since Brexit.
The country is the first new member and the first in Europe to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) since it entered into force in 2018.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the move early Friday, calling it a historic move that could help propel the country’s long-term economic growth of 1.8 billion pounds ($2.2 billion).
“The block is home to more than 500 million people and will be worth 15% of global GDP once the UK joins,” Sunak’s office said.
CPTPP is a free trade agreement with 11 members: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam. It follows the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the United States withdrew under former President Donald Trump in 2017.
The British agreement comes nearly two years after negotiations to join the pact began.
As a member, over 99% of UK exports to these 11 countries now qualify for duty-free trade. This includes important export goods such as cheese, cars, chocolate, machinery, gin, and whiskey.
In the year to September 2022, Britain exported 60.5 billion pounds ($75 billion) worth of goods to CPTPP countries, Sunak’s office said in a statement.
Dairy farmers, for example, shipped £23.9 million ($29.6 million) worth of products such as cheese and butter to Canada, Chile, Japan, and Mexico last year and are seeking to benefit from lower tariffs, the publication added.
The deal also aims to cut bureaucracy for British companies, which will no longer need to set up local or Pact-country-based offices to provide services there.
Services accounted for 43% of the UK’s total trade with CPTPP members last year, according to Sunak’s office.
“Fundamentally, we are an open and free trading country,” the prime minister said in his statement, describing the deal as an example of “the economic benefits of our post-Brexit freedoms.”
“As part of the CPTPP, the UK is now in a prime position in the global economy to capitalize on new jobs, growth, and innovation opportunities,” added Sunack.
Several companies supported the deal in a government statement, including global bank Standard Chartered (SCBFF) and liquor maker Pernod Ricard (PDRDF).
Joining the pact “is a huge opportunity for our Scotch whiskey business,” said Anishka Jelicic, UK PR director at Pernod Ricard.
“Five of our top 20 export markets are CPTPP members. We look forward to cutting tariffs and smoother access to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies to boost exports and bring jobs and investment to the UK, with sales doubling in some markets.”