One of Australia’s most senior politicians on Sunday poured cold water on proposals from the UK to swiftly join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade agreement post-Brexit, but did admit the country stands ready to “fast track” some form of deal with Britain.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Australia’s trade minister Simon Birmingham said that it was unlikely the UK will have any likelihood of joining CPTPP in the short-to-medium term, largely because it is not in the Pacific, making the political nature of the UK’s joining difficult.
“Obviously it’s a statement of fact that the UK is not within the Pacific,” Birmingham told the FT.
“Some of the other TPP members would think that there are some nations within the Asia Pacific region who might be earlier starters in terms of coming in.”
International Trade secretary Liam Fox – who at one point promised the UK would have 40 trade deals ready by the moment it left the EU – has frequently stated his desire for Britain to join CPTPP, an agreement that includes Australia, Japan, Canada, and several other nations.
Under the acronym TPP, the agreement initially included the USA, but the world’s largest economy withdrew during the first days of the Trump presidency.
As well as warning the UK it is unlikely to be allowed to join CPTPP, Birmingham joined a growing chorus of voices urging British politicians to provide clarity on the country’s future trading relationship with the world.
“Businesses around the world would like to know what is going to transpire for the future – especially those who use the UK as a hub for business into Europe,” he said.
Birmingham did, however, provide some positive news for Britain, saying that Australia is keen to fast track an agreement between the countries in the event of a no deal Brexit.
“If we face a no-deal scenario then we would be urging and encouraging the UK to negotiate and finalize an agreement as quickly as possible,” he told the FT.
“I would absolutely hope that we would conclude negotiations this year.”
The UK has until March 29 to ratify a Brexit deal, but a political stalemate in the House of Commons means that the likelihood of a no deal Brexit is seemingly rising day by day.