SINGAPORE – Singapore and the 10 other members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreed on Wednesday (June 2) to start inducting Britain into the pact.

A working group chaired by Japan and with Singapore and Australia as vice-chairs will oversee the process, which will involve conducting negotiations and submitting a report on the proposed terms and conditions of the accession.

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said Singapore supports the application from Britain, which applied to join in February.

“Singapore continues to welcome economies that are willing and able to meet the (Partnership’s) high standards… and to further advance deeper economic integration in the Asia Pacific and beyond,” he said in a statement.

Mr Gan noted that trade is a critical enabler for post-pandemic economic recovery, and countries should work together towards achieving inclusive and sustainable growth.

He added that the pact “supports the growth and development of small and medium enterprises by making it easier for them to participate in regional trade and supply chains”.

The CPTPP is a free-trade agreement between 11 countries – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

It was concluded in January 2018 and signed in March the same year. It has been ratified by Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam so far and came into force between these countries on Dec 30, 2018.

Brunei, Chile, Peru and Malaysia are awaiting ratification.

The partnership was at one point seen as a way for the United States and Japan to counter the growing economic might of China. But former US president Donald Trump withdrew from negotiations when he took office in 2017 and his successor, Mr Joe Biden, has yet to indicate if any reversal is likely.

In 2019, Mr Biden backed the CPTPP, saying “the idea behind it was a good one” and, during the Democratic primaries, said he was open to renegotiating US membership.

More recently, China itself has shown interest in joining the pact following its signing of the separate Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a less demanding agreement covering some of the same nations.

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