- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 31, 2021

The United Kingdom announced plans to apply for membership in a Pacific Rim free-trade pact that former President Donald Trump rejected for the U.S. in one of his first acts as president.

British International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is expected to make a formal appeal to join the 11-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in talks this week with her counterparts from Japan and New Zealand.

Mr. Trump took the U.S. out of talks for the predecessor free-trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), saying it represented a bad deal for American companies and workers who had lost out on earlier free-trade accords.

The Obama administration earlier had touted the agreement as a way to boost export markets, expand U.S. intellectual property rights and create a ring of allied trading partners surrounding China.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is promoting potential U.K. membership in the CPTPP as one more payoff of Brexit, saying London has the flexibility to cut more attractive trade deals now that it is no longer part of the European Union. British two-way trade with the countries in the pact, including Canada, Singapore and Vietnam, reached $152 billion in 2020.

“One year after our departure from the EU, we are forging new partnerships that will bring enormous economic benefits for the people of Britain,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement. “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.”

British trade officials said talks on joining the agreement are expected later this year.

President Biden supported the TPP as vice president in the Obama administration, but has yet to lay out his full trade agenda or whether the U.S. now will seek to join the revised CPTPP.

• David R. Sands can be reached at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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