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LONDON — Britain will be welcomed into an Indo-Pacific trade bloc late Thursday as ministers from the soon-to-be 12-nation trade pact meet in a virtual ceremony across multiple time zones.
Chief negotiators and senior officials from member countries agreed Wednesday that Britain has met the high bar to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), four people familiar with the talks told POLITICO.
Negotiations are “done” and Britain’s accession is “all agreed [and] confirmed,” said a diplomat from one member nation. They were granted anonymity as they were unauthorized to discuss deliberations.
The U.K. will be the first new nation to join the pact since it was set up in 2018. Its existing members are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Canada.
Britain’s accession means it has met the high standards of the deal’s market access requirements and that it will align with the bloc’s sanitary and phytosanitary standards as well as provisions like investor-state dispute settlement. The resolution of a spat between the U.K. and Canada over agricultural market access earlier this month smoothed the way to joining up.
Member states have been “wary” of the “precedent-setting nature” of Britain’s accession, a government official from a member nation said, as China’s application to join is next in the queue. That makes it in the U.K.’s interests to ensure acceding parties provide ambitious market access offers, they added.
Trade ministers from the bloc will meet late Thursday in Britain, or early Friday for some member nations in Asia, “to put the seal on it all,” said the diplomat quoted at the top. The deal will be signed at a later time as the text needs to be legally verified and translated into various languages — including French in Canada. “That takes time,” they said.
Speaking Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said: “Negotiations have been proceeding well on CPTPP, and ministers are due to have discussions with their counterparts later this week.”
Any update will, they added, provided at the “earliest possible opportunity.”