Why Britain’s new CPTPP trade deal will not make up for Brexit

The UK recently announced that it will join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), giving British businesses access to the 11 other members of the Indo-Pacific trade bloc and bringing its combined GDP to £11 trillion.

Some commentators have suggested the deal could make up for Brexit. It’s been called “a momentous economic and strategic moment” that “kills off any likelihood that it [the UK] will ever rejoin the EU customs union or single market”. Shanker Singham of think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs has even said: “it’s no exaggeration to say that CPTPP+UK is an equivalent economic power to the EU-28-UK”, comparing it to a trade deal between the UK and EU members.

UK business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch echoed such sentiments, telling Times Radio:

We’ve left the EU so we need to look at what to do in order to grow the UK economy and not keep talking about a vote from seven years ago.

The problem with this fanfare is that the government’s own economic analysis of the benefits of joining this bloc is underwhelming. There is an estimated gain to the UK of 0.08% of GDP – this is just a 50th of the OBR’s estimate of what Brexit has cost the UK economy to date. Even for those that are sceptical about models and forecasts, that is an enormous difference in magnitude.

Of course, the CPTPP is expected to offer the UK some real gains. It certainly provides significant potential opportunities for some individual exporters. But the estimated gains for Britain overall are very small.

The main reason for this is that, apart from Japan, the major players of the global economy are not in the CPTPP. The US withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership (the CPTPP is what the remaining members formed without it). And China started negotiations to join in 2022, but current geopolitics now make its entry highly improbable. India was never involved.

In addition, the UK already has free trade agreements with nine out of the 11 members. The remaining two, Malaysia and Brunei, are controversial due to environmental threats from palm oil production to rainforests and orangutans.


For the full article by Dr Huw Edwards and Dr Mustapha Douch, visit the Conversation.


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