Pacific trade deal is a benefit of Brexit
Trade deals have taken on huge significance since Brexit. Which nations we trade with, and on what terms, are key indicators of how we are reframing our post-EU identity. That is why Britain becoming the first European country to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is so important.
A casual glance at its membership signals why: from Vietnam via Malaysia to Mexico, here are nations whose prosperity is set to explode in the coming decades. Indeed, forecasts that point to a negligible impact on UK growth ought to be taken with a pinch of salt: they have been criticised for systematically downplaying the advantages of expanding non-EU trade. “It’s a deal about the future,” the Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch has rightly pointed out. For Mrs Badenoch, the deal is a significant achievement whose economic impact will grow with every passing year.
Nor is the CPTPP deal of only economic importance. The years since Brexit have seen a dawning realisation that China is seeking to challenge the existing international order. Few now doubt that the Asia-Pacific is the pre-eminent crucible of contemporary geo-politics, and Beijing cannot be allowed to dictate the terms of trade in the region.
It is wishful thinking that accession to the CPTPP will dash forever the hopes of those who want to rejoin the EU. But it does dismantle some of their arguments. The UK could not have taken this step had it still been in the EU. While the Government has been regrettably reluctant to diverge from Brussels at home, abroad Brexit has given UK foreign policy new impetus.