Britain is looking towards the Pacific trading bloc abandoned by the US as it seeks out new trade opportunities after Brexit.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was ditched by Donald Trump in one of his first acts as US President, but the UK government now has its eyes on the bloc and has held informal discussions with members.
Following the departure of the US, the TPP now has 11 members, which include Australia, Japan, Canada and Mexico.
The bloc is working on a revised trade deal, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, that they expect to sign early this year.
A spokeswoman for the Department of International Trade said the government had not ruled out “plurilateral relationships”.
“We have set up 14 trade ‘working groups’ across 21 countries to explore the best ways of progressing our trade and investment relationships across the world,” she said.
British officials have discussed the possibility of joining the TPP with officials in Australia and New Zealand, where the UK government has already set up trade working groups.
However, it is unlikely talks will progress until the UK has secured its deal with the EU.
The Pacific group was an initiative backed by Barack Obama. However, Trump said the accord would be a “potential disaster” for the US, and said his decision to leave the TPP would protect US workers.
The news of Britain’s new ambitions in Asia comes as trade secretary Liam Fox heads to China for talks.