The British House of Lords International Agreements Sub-Committee has launched a new inquiry on the potential accession of the UK to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, (CPTPP) The agreement between eleven countries includes four ASEAN states in Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam (the last two with whom the UK has recently signed off Free Trade Agreements), in addition to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and Peru. The UK government has put forward its plans to seek accession to the CPTPP as an element of its trade negotiations program. Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore are Commonwealth members in Asia, while Canada is a North American member.
Today, the eleven CPTPP countries’ combined economies represent 13.4% of global GDP (about £9.88 trillion), making the CPTPP the fourth largest free trade area in the world after NAFTA, (the US, Canada and Mexico) the European Union, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The inquiry will examine the government’s objectives in regards of the progression of negotiations. It will also look at the potential implications of a final deal for business and people in the UK. The International Agreements Sub-Committee will scrutinize a future deal’s impact on the UK’s regulations and standards and will cover sectors such as food and agriculture, intellectual property, digital trade, professional services, and the consequences for inward investment. Moreover, the sub-committee will assess how the CPTPP will align with the UK’s policy on tackling global climate change and sustainable development.
At this stage, it is not yet known when negotiations between the UK and the CPTPP’s current members will be concluded, nevertheless, the House of Lords’ sub-committee inquiry will continue being active throughout the course of the accession discussions.
ASEAN dialogue partner status begins
The UK government has already taken steps to integrate with Asia’s regional blocs following its successful bid to become a Dialogue Partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As a Dialogue Partner, the UK gains high-level access to ASEAN, alongside enhanced practical cooperation on various policy issues with the regional bloc. It also enables the UK to join other important dialogue partners, including the US, China, and India.
The UK is currently one of several countries with a dedicated Ambassador to ASEAN, having a diplomatic mission with all 10 member countries. It also has extensive cooperation programs to discuss with ASEAN including measures in dealing with the global pandemic, climate change, and terrorism, among others. The UK’s Dialogue Partner status would further build on its ties with ASEAN by its involvement in annual ASEAN summits and ministerial meetings.
The first official ASEAN meeting welcoming the UK’s participation took place on January 23, 2021, at the 11th Meeting of the Committee of the Whole (CoW) for the ASEAN Economic Community’s Integration Work Plan for 2021-2025. At the meeting, UK Ambassador to ASEAN, Jon Lambe, presented the UK government’s and Boston Consulting Group’s joint work on enabling ASEAN to utilize Global Value Chains to drive economic recovery, as part of ASEAN’s Recovery Framework, post Covid-19 pandemic.
For the first time in post-war history, the British parliament is taking steps to reverse decades of economic and political orientation towards Europe, in favour of re-igniting its relations with the countries of East Asia and the Pacific rim, and specifically reengage with Commonwealth nations around the Asia-Pacific region.