International trade secretary Liz Truss has said she is aiming for the UK to join a major trading bloc with countries like Mexico and Australia within the next 12 months.
Truss finished up three days of face-to-face negotiations with Australian trade minister Dan Tehan in London earlier this week, with both sides saying a deal should be wrapped up by June.
It is believed this could be a springboard for the UK to join the 11-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which includes countries such as Australia, Mexico, Japan, Canada, Singapore and Vietnam.
The CPTPP was formed in 2018 and ensures tariff-free trade between all members, while also providing important data sharing agreements between countries.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Truss said she was hoping the UK could enter the bloc by this time next year.
“We’ve already done deals with Canada, Mexico, and many of those CPTPP nations so this is another step towards that broader access to one of the fastest growing parts of the world,” she said.
“That’s where the future lies for British business, whether it’s the whisky industry, the car industry, our fantastic financial services or digital industries, that’s the fastest growing part of the world. And that’s why we need more access to those markets.”
A free trade deal with Australia would bring the UK another step closer to CPTPP membership as it would provide strong trading ties to a key partner of the bloc.
The negotiations with Australia are centred around areas such as telecommunications, business visas and agricultural exports.
UK negotiators are keen for the deal to extend free mobile roaming for Brits travelling to Australia and to open up the country’s market to UK telecommunications companies, while Canberra has been calling for reduced tariffs for products like Australian wine.
Truss said today that she would be pushing for UK agricultural companies to increase their exporting activity in order to reap the benefits of post-Brexit trade deals.
Speaking to the BBC, she said: “Only one-in-five food producers export – what I want to do is change the culture so we get more of our fantastic food and drink out there in the rest of the world.
“The benefit of this deal is that products like Scotch Whisky that faces a tariff, tariffs will be removed, products like cars will have tariffs removed. There will be huge opportunities for financial services, professional services.”
A deal with Canberra would boost the UK economy by more than £900m, however Australia would see economic benefits that are almost four-times greater.
Truss said that this was only “static analysis”.
“It’s not a fixed prediction, we can change the way we do things,” she said.
“Bringing in things from Australia at better prices is good for British consumers, whether it’s wine or other Australian products.”