UK and Canada ‘break impasse’ on Indo-Pacific trade pact
Top trade reps Kemi Badenoch and Mary Ng make CPTPP progress over London lunch.
LONDON — Britain’s trade chief Kemi Badenoch and her Canadian counterpart Mary Ng settled differences during a crunch lunch Tuesday in a move that bodes well for the U.K.’s post-Brexit hopes of joining a key Indo-Pacific trade bloc.
Ng and Badenoch "tackled some of the remaining issues" and are "now wrapping up final negotiations" on market access, a senior Canadian official told POLITICO. This, they said, “breaks [an] impasse with the U.K. on CPTPP negotiations.”
The details of the settlement between Canada and the U.K. are being closely held. The U.K. government declined to comment on live negotiations.
But the crunch talks come after the U.K.’s negotiations to join the 11-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade bloc soured in Vietnam earlier this month amid a row over agricultural market access.
Canada blocked an agreement in principle on Britain’s accession over the issue, four people confirmed to POLITICO. Ottawa has long called for Britain to open up its beef market and offer similar market access on agriculture as it did with Australia and New Zealand in early post-Brexit pacts.
"Canada and the U.K. are long standing partners, close allies and friends, and Canada is looking forward to having them in the agreement," the senior Canadian official added. "As the first member of the CPTPP to support the U.K. accession, we are pleased that negotiations [are] now in the final stages — for the benefit of our people and workers."
Ng is in the U.K. on a trade mission promoting women-led firms with more than 40 female entrepreneurs in tow.
Canada is also negotiating a bilateral trade deal with the U.K. The fifth round of bilateral talks start next Monday and Canada’s top negotiator is in London this week in preparation.
Ng and Badenoch also discussed those negotiations, said the Canadian official. Canada is “very positive and optimistic” about doing the bilateral deal “quickly and to the benefit of all our businesses,” they said.
Japan is leading the U.K.’s accession process, which began in early 2021. The U.K. will be the first new member to join CPTPP. Other members include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
China has an application in the queue to join the bloc and member states are “wary” Britain’s accession is “precedent-setting,” a government official from a CPTPP nation supportive of Britain’s bid said. That means it’s in the U.K.’s future interests, they added, to ensure it meets the high standards set for market access offers.
Sebastian Whale contributed reporting.