The United Kingdom applies to join the CPTPP. Although it is easy to draw cakes, it is difficult to appease hunger.
On 30 January, the British Cabinet announced that the UK would formally apply for membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Comprehensive Progressive Agreement (CPTPP).
January 31 marks the first anniversary of the official Brexit. What is the calculation of the British government when applying to join the CPTPP at this node?
The first new member to apply for membership
The predecessor of the CPTPP is the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP), which was originally a trade agreement initiated by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore.
In 2010, a total of 12 countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, Vietnam) joined in 2010.
The TPP was officially signed on February 4, 2016, but the United States entered the election year that year.
Republican candidate Trump threatened to “exitate the United States once elected”, which caused great uncertainty to the agreement and made the signatories hesitate.
At the end of that year, Trump was elected.
On January 23, 2017, Trump, who had just been sworn in for three days, let the United States “exit from the group”, at which time none of the 12 signatories had completed the domestic ratification process.
On November 11, 2017, the remaining 11 countries agreed to restructure the CPTPP, removing 22 “high standards” that the United States insisted on at the beginning and generally did not agree with the rest.
On March 8, 2018, the countries officially signed the CPTPP in Chile, and 6 out of 11 countries completed the legislative ratification process.
So far, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Vietnam, Mexico, Canada and other seven countries have completed the legislative ratification process, and the agreement has entered into force.
Britain is no longer the so-called “sunset empire”, and the geographical concept of “cross the Pacific Ocean” is at least irrelevant, if not impossible to say.
Nevertheless, since the second half of last year, the ruling Conservative cabinet has been “blowing” and expressing its intention to join.
In a statement announcing that the UK will officially submit its application for membership, British Prime Minister Johnson said that one year after Brexit, Britain is “forging a new partnership”, which will “bring great economic benefits to the British people” and “show that Britain is doing business with partners around the world on the best conditions and becoming a global freedom.
The ambition of the passionate supporters of trade.
Liz Truss, the British Secretary of State for International Trade, will talk to officials from Japan and New Zealand on February 1 and formally submit their applications during this period.
Joining the CPTPP is temporarily symbolic.
The British Cabinet said that the purpose of applying for joining the CPTP is to “significantly reduce import and export tariffs”, and 95% of the tariffs between CPTPP member countries will be exempted.
But this reason actually does not stand up to scrutiny: although the trade volume between the United Kingdom and the CPTP countries reached $152 billion (£11 billion) in 2019, the British and Japanese trade volume accounted for nearly 25%.
In fact, among the 11 countries of CPTPP, the United Kingdom and seven of them (Japan, Mexico, Canada, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Singapore) have signed bilateral free trade agreements with better conditions than CPTP, and bilateral free trade agreements between Australia and New Zealand are also expected to be reached soon.
That is to say, for the United Kingdom, the tariff preferences for applying for CPTPP membership are actually limited to Malaysia and Brunei.
Even without considering these, the trade volume between the United Kingdom and the CPTPP accounts for about 9% of British exports, which is only one-sixth of the value of British exports to the newly withdrawn EU, and less than the value of British exports to Germany.
The only thing that seems profitable is bilateral investment: in 2017, CPTP countries accounted for 1/12 of foreign direct investment introduced in the United Kingdom, and vice versa.
Signing the CPTPP is expected to make Britain free in this regard.
The Conservative Cabinet also paints the prospect that “joining the CPTPP will enable the UK to establish modern, advanced free trade agreements with dynamic countries and become a center for extensive free trade agreements”, citing that the CPTPP will relax restrictions on services and digital trade, while the UK believes that “it will be in its own benefit”. .
But opponents point out that the largest target markets for British exports are the United States, China, the European Union and India (the total exports to the United States alone are twice as large as for all countries in the CPTP), and joining the CPTP is far from enough to offset the trade losses caused by Brexit.
Opposition Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry criticized the Conservative Cabinet’s “lack of transparency” for “hurriedly allowing Britain to join a trade agreement thousands of miles away without giving the public full access to the right to know and discussion” Brightness”.
In a word, in Britain, many people think that the hasty application for CPTPP is as the BBC commented – “at least temporarily only symbolic”.
However, Johnson and his cabinet want this symbolic meaning.
With many “combines” caused by a tough Brexit and poor performance in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Johnson and his cabinet have been under a lot of criticism and pressure in the UK.
They are eager to show that they have made a difference and stabilize the crumbling support rate.
To this end, Johnson’s cabinet rushed to join the CPTP at the expense of fighting a “vaccine war” with the EU at the forefront of the storm, which is also aimed at showing that Britain’s “the old go, the new go no”.
Britain may have difficulty in obtaining huge economic benefits.
For the British application to join the CPTPP, it is easy to draw cakes, but it is difficult to appease hunger.
In questioning, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of International Trade Samberly said, “we don’t even know whether the UK can veto China’s application for membership after joining”.
But this mentality is destined to be funny: before one foot enters the circle, does it start to fantasize about giving orders?
Some analysts who support Britain’s accession to the CPTPP believe that in the future, the United States and China will join the transnational free trade agreement.
At this time, Britain’s participation can seize a favorable position and prepare for the future.
However, many international scholars have pointed out that due to the still strong anti-globalization sentiment at home, the United States has signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and will not rush to join the CPTPP under the current situation.
Former U.S. diplomat Chamorro believes that at present, in U.S. government, court, government and opposition, “trade liberalization has become the dawn of the Obama era, and opposition to joining the CPTP has become the consensus of the majority of both parties in Congress.” Under such circumstances, it is “almost impossible” for the United States to return to the CPTPP in the near future – in fact, Biden has hardly mentioned anything about it since he took office.
Without the participation of China and the United States, the CPTPP will become a combination of exporting economies, and the lack of an open large market within the framework of the agreement that constitutes an “internal cycle” with these export economies will be impossible to talk about.
Britain’s accession is neither enough to change this embarrassing situation, nor to obtain the “great economic benefits” promised by Johnson and the Conservative Party.