According to Rishi Sunak, “good and constructive” progress is being made in negotiations for Britain to sign a massive post-Brexit trade pact with Pacific nations.
The agreement, which could be signed within weeks, will be worth tens of billions of pounds to UK businesses.
It would be the Prime Minister’s second major breakthrough following his post-Brexit agreement with the EU on Northern Ireland.
Officials are close to reaching a preliminary agreement to join the 11-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The UK applied to join the £9 trillion bloc in early 2021, and membership is a key component of the country’s larger post-Brexit foreign policy shift towards the Indo-Pacific.
Members include Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Chile, Vietnam and Malaysia.
A report by the Centre for Policy Studies last year said joining the CPTPP could boost Britain’s GDP by up to £20 billion per year.
Speaking during a visit to San Diego to agree to the next phase of a new Pacific defence pact with the USA and Australia, Mr Sunak said: “Look with all these trade negotiations I’ve said before It’s important that we get them right.
“Rather than – we shouldn’t sacrifice quality for speed. I’ve always said that about all trade negotiations.
“But we’ve been having good and constructive conversations and it’s right that we continue to do so and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to proceed that’s been something that we’ve been keen to do – we have to make sure that’s on terms that are acceptable to us and .. those conversations have made good progress.”
As the talks have progressed, key sticking points have included CPTPP member Canada’s request that Britain lift its ban on hormone-treated beef, which UK ministers have stated will not happen.
Canada and Mexico have also pushed for access to Britain’s agricultural market on par with what Australia and New Zealand have in their bilateral trade agreements with the country.