The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is known as the CPTPP, comprises nations from Asia and the Pacific Rim and has a population of 500 million people.
The BBC said on Sunday that Liz Truss, the UK’s secretary of state for international trade, planned to issue the request on Monday, during talks with ministers from Japan and New Zealand, a move that will trigger weeks of negotiations.
Truss said: “It will mean lower tariffs for car manufacturers and whisky producers, and better access for our brilliant services providers, delivering quality jobs and greater prosperity for people here at home.”
She insisted the UK, which has already had preliminary talks with the CPTPP, is “at the front of the queue” among nations hoping to join it.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the prospect of joining the bloc is the sort of thing he wanted for the UK when he led it out of the European Union 12 months ago.
“One year after our departure from the EU, we are forging new partnerships that will bring enormous economic benefits for the people of Britain,” he said.
“Applying to be the first new country 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.”
Unlike the EU, the CPTPP allows members to forge trade deals independently.
The bloc, which generates around 13 percent of the world’s income, imported 111 billion pounds ($152 billion) of UK products in 2019, the Department for International Trade said.
The UK hopes membership of the organization that was formed in 2018 will mean greatly reduced tariffs on exports, and easier access to visas for people wanting to visit member nations.
However, the Daily Express notes that London already has trade deals with seven of the 11 member-nations and is working on standalone deals with New Zealand and Australia. The paper said the Australia deal alone should increase UK trade by as much as 16 billion pounds a year.
An unnamed senior official within the Department for International Trade reportedly told the free, business-focused Newspaper City AM: “There is a race between Australia and New Zealand. (The deals) should both be (agreed) around Easter, maybe earlier, if it goes well.”
The United States had initially intended to join the CPTPP but abandoned the idea under the Donald Trump administration. It is not yet known whether President Joe Biden plans to relaunch the bid, but he has said he favors rejoining pacts and treaties. If the US does join the pact, and the UK secures membership, London would end up having a trade deal with Washington, something it has long said it wants.
Sky News said the Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the prospect of the UK joining the CPTPP, claiming it would help companies “thrive and succeed more than ever”.