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UK to apply to join trade pact with Australia, Canada and Japan

International trade secretary Liz Truss said she will ask to become a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on Monday.

Negotiations are expected to start this Spring, according to the government, which said that UK trade with the group was worth £111bn last year.

Ms Truss, who is due to face questions about the move on BBC and Sky News on Sunday morning, made the announcement on the anniversary of the UK’s formal departure from the EU.

The Department for International Trade said joining the CPTPP would cut tariffs on food, drink and cars and improve access to the markets of its members, such as Mexico, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Other benefits are said to include easier travel between partnership countries and cheaper visas.  

Ms Truss said joining the pact would “create enormous opportunities for UK businesses that simply weren’t there as part of the EU”.

Boris Johnson said applying to join the CPTPP “demonstrates our ambition to do business on the best terms with our friends and partners all over the world and be an enthusiastic champion of global free trade”.

Businesses welcomed the plans, with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) saying it would help firms “thrive and succeed more than ever”.

Confederation of British Industry president Lord Bilimoria said: “Membership of the bloc has the potential to deliver new opportunities for UK business across different sectors.”

However shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry questioned why the UK had left the EU trade bloc “only to rush into joining another one on the other side of the world without any meaningful public consultation at all”.

She added: “Like any other trade agreement, the advantages of joining the CPTPP will have to be assessed once we see the terms on offer.”

“It is important that consumer interests are at the centre of government trade policy as the success of future agreements will be judged on what they deliver for millions of ordinary people in their everyday lives, not just the export opportunities they provide,” she added.

Additional reporting by Press Association