US-UK trade: What are CPTPP and USMCA pacts UK is flirting with trying to join?

·2-min read
The UK is considering joining the CPTPP and USMCA trade partnerships (Andrew Matthews/PA)
The UK is considering joining the CPTPP and USMCA trade partnerships (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The UK is considering joining a trade partnership between the US, Canada and Mexico or an Asia-Pacific free trade group after Boris Johnson gave up on his dream of a bilateral deal with Washington.

The prime minister accepted a direct free trade agreement (FTA) with the UK was not high on US president Joe Biden’s list of priorities after meeting with his American counterpart in the White House on Tuesday.

The UK will instead look to improve trade links with the US by exploring other avenues such as inserting itself as the fourth member of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) or joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the Independent understands.

We’ve taken a look at the two trade pacts and what they could mean for the UK.


The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is a major free trade area including Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore.

The CPTPP was born out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a group promoted by then-US president Barack Obama as part of Washington’s increased emphasis on relations with Asia.

Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, pulled out in 2017 and Biden has not rejoined the group.

The UK revealed it was formally applying in January 2021 and negotiations began in June.

The CPTPP, which took effect in 2018, includes agreements on market access, movement of labour and government procurement.

The Department for International Trade said joining the trade group would cut tariffs on food, drink and cars and improve access to the markets of its members, such as Mexico, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Other benefits are said to include easier travel between partnership countries and cheaper visas.

If accepted, the UK would become the first European member, joining Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

China has also applied in an effort to increase its influence over international policies, while Taiwan is hoping to join.

If China joined, it would quadruple the total population within the group to some 2 billion people.


Britain may also bid to join the trade partnership between the US, Canada and Mexico as a fourth member in the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

USMCA came into effect in July 2020 as a replacement for the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which was torn up by Donald Trump.

Covering areas ranging from motor vehicles and steel to agricultural produce and data transfers, Washington said the deal should boost US GDP by $68bn and generate 176,000 jobs.

Britain already has trade agreements with Canada and Mexico. therefore the main benefits of joining would be linked to the US element of the deal.

There has previously been no talk of extending the three-nation arrangement beyond the continent.

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