Wednesday, 4 Aug 2021

EU’s accession to CPTPP branded ‘impossible’ in huge blow to Brussels

CPTPP will overtake the EU says George Brandis

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New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has issued a veiled threat to block the UK’s accession to a major trade block this week. On Wednesday, Ms Ardern gave a speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in which she provided an update on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade negotiations. The CPTPP is a high-quality free trade agreement which binds together Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico, Malaysia, Peru, Chile and Brunei.

It covers nearly 14 percent of the global economy.

She said talks on a trade deal with Britain were “well-advanced”, reflecting indications made by UK officials that a deal could be struck in the coming weeks.

However, giving her speech Ms Ardern also appeared to issue a threat to block the UK’s attempts to join CPTPP.

Speaking about international relations after the pandemic, she said: “Governments will need to re-commit to supporting an open and rules-based regional order; one that’s more sustainable and resilient.”

Ms Ardern’s reference to countries needing to respect a “rules-based regional order” is likely to have led to raised eyebrows in Whitehall.

The EU and US have repeatedly warned the UK failure to properly implement the Northern Ireland Protocol would mean breaking international law.

Ms Ardern’s comments might have caused concern that New Zealand could also side with Brussels over the diplomatic spat.

While New Zealand could support Brussels, in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Alan Winters, director of the Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex, claimed the European bloc could never join CPTPP.

Mr Winters said there is “absolutely no way” the two sides would reach an agreement.

He said: “Yeah… pigs might fly.

“The EU would join the CPTPP but only if the CPTPP signs to EU’s standards and regulations.

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“So there is absolutely no way. No way at all.

“Bringing CPTPP and EU together, it would be the most difficult things in the world of trade.”

On the other hand, Mr Winters argued it would be much easier if the US joined the partnership.

He added: “Remember the CPTPP is the child of the TPP.

“And Biden was a great advocate at the time.

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“He has not done it yet for very predictable reasons – mainly Biden is not particularly into trade deals.

“But he very well could.”

Government trade adviser Shanker Singham echoed Mr Winters’ claim and explained why it would be impossible for Brussels to join in the immediate future.

He said: “The game is in the Indo-Pacific, that’s for sure.

“I think it would be fantastic to get the EU into the CPTTP, but they would not be able to join at the moment.

“With their approach on agriculture and standards, it is impossible for them to accede.

“This doesn’t mean they can’t change their approaches.”

He noted: “It would be good for the world if they did and I am hopeful that somebody in the EU trade department is trying to figure out what to change in order to become an accession country.”

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