Why do most European countries not apply to regional trade pacts outside of Europe like the RCEP and the CPTPP?

United Kingdom: The British Foreign Affairs Committee urged the UK Government to assess membership of the RCEP, as part of the UK's 'Indo-Pacific tilt'.[62][63]


In January 2018, the government of the United Kingdom stated that it was exploring membership of the CPTPP to stimulate exports after Brexit and had held informal discussions with several of the members.[116] The United Kingdom is qualified to join CPTPP as it has sovereignty over the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific Ocean.[117][118] In October 2018, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would welcome the United Kingdom joining the partnership post-Brexit.[119] Liz Truss, the UK Secretary of State for Trade, expressed in a joint Daily Telegraph article with Simon Birmingham, David Parker, and Chan Chun Sing, the trade ministers of Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, the intent of the United Kingdom to join the CPTPP.[120]


So it seems to me that you can actually apply to these regional trade deals even if you're not part of the region geographically, but what surprises me is that most European countries choose not to do so for some reason, I am thinking it might be due to some complications related to the EU, but maybe I am wrong. Is there a reason for so few countries in Europe wanting to join these trade pacts?


1 Answer 1


Is there a reason for so few countries in Europe wanting to join these trade pacts?

Because most of them are already in the largest fully integrated trade pact in the world, the European Union.

The EU forms a single internal market in customs union; this is a fundemntal principle that some may argue is the single most important role or benefit of the EU (even more so than free movement of goods).

To maintain a functional single market with uniform tariffs, the EU countries have by treaty transferred certain sovereign powers to the EU:

Article 3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

  1. The Union shall have exclusive competence in the following areas:
  • (a) customs union;
  • (b) the establishing of the competition rules necessary for the functioning of the internal market;
  • (c) monetary policy for the Member States whose currency is the euro;
  • (d) the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy;
  • (e) common commercial policy.
  1. The Union shall also have exclusive competence for the conclusion of an international agreement when its conclusion is provided for in a legislative act of the Union or is necessary to enable the Union to exercise its internal competence, or in so far as its conclusion may affect common rules or alter their scope.

Thus, individual EU countries cannot negotiate trade agreements on their own, unless of course, they decide to leave the EU "trade pact", which would usually be far more harmful to their economy and trade.

The EU actively negotiates and concludes trade deals with various countries and other trade blocs (e.g. Mercosur and East African Community). The EU, if it (its member states) wishes so, can apply to join trade blocs, such as CPTPP, as a single entity.

  • "The EU, if it (its member states) wishes so, can apply to join trade blocs, such as CPTPP, as a single entity." They did join some trade agreements (CETA with Canada for example). But such negotiations could take some time. Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 12:52

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