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On June 17th, the UK Government formally announced its intention to pursue membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), following repeated expressions of interest from the administrations of both Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

Of the eleven current signatories of the CPTPP, the UK has already signed a post-Brexit trade agreement with two, (Chile & Peru), and is in talks with Australia & New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Singapore. The EU currently has a FTA with Vietnam, which presumably the UK will seek to replicate after 2020, as they have with other EU FTAs.

Seemingly then, the only countries whose markets the UK would gain greater access to as a member of CPTPP, are Brunei and Malaysia. Indeed, this point was picked up by the Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Emily Thornberry, who said in the House:

I raise those questions not from confirmed opposition to CPTPP but simply because we need to know whether the risks are worth taking if the only distinct benefit is the prospect of free trade with Malaysia and Brunei. That debate has not yet been won, and I urge the Secretary of State to reopen it for consultation with industry, unions and other stakeholders who did not have the time to study the proposals properly during the busy Brexit negotiations in autumn 2018.

Source: Twitter - Emily Thornberry

Is this analysis, and Thornberry's, that the UK only stands to gain greater access to Malaysia and Brunei compared to it's current pre-2021 EU trade deals correct? Are there any other benefits to CPTPP membership apart from those conferred by FTAs with the individual signatory nations?

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CPTTP may offer one benefit. A desperate and weakened UK reeling from brexit will be unlikely to get a good deal by negotiating individual agreements. Each country will be looking to exploit the UK's weakness, having at best just lost substantial access to its biggest export market and likely in financial difficulty as a result.

CPTTP was negotiated by more equal players in better times. By signing up to it the UK can take advantage of terms that are better than anything it is likely to get alone.

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