UK joins CPTPP – what’s in it for tech

On 31 March, the UK signed a deal to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The trade bloc has 11 members – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – which represent around 13% of global GDP and a consumer market of 500 million people. The deal is indicative of a wider shift towards the Indo-Pacific, as suggested in the UK Government’s Integrated Review

By the UK Government’s own estimates, this deal will add 0.08% to UK GDP over 10 years. This is because the UK already has bilateral FTAs with every member except Brunei and Malaysia. 

One of the benefits of the CPTPP is in relation to services trade, which made up 43% of UK trade with CPTPP members in 2022. UK companies will not need to establish a regional or local office in order to supply a service to CPTPP countries.    

In terms of digital trade, the CPTPP includes provisions on data flows and a ban on data localisation. Companies will not be required to disclose source code as a condition for market access. Regulatory cooperation on AI, cybersecurity and other digital policy issues form a big part of the implementation for members of the CPTPP, which will be welcome cooperation for reducing access barriers for SMEs. 

However, the value of the UK joining the CPTPP is more strategic than material. It places the UK in the club of middle power nations with a tradition of pushing the boundaries of what is possible in digital trade policy. Australia, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand – and also the UK – have some of the world’s most advanced provisions on digital trade in their bilateral and regional trade agreements. Those include modern regulatory cooperation commitments on things like artificial intelligence, cyber security, data, competition, online safety and digital identity. By joining the bloc, the UK can promote its governance vision for digital trade policy in the future.  

The UK is the first country to join since CPTPP was agreed between its members in 2018. There are others who either filed formal applications to join or expressed interest in joining, such as China, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines. By being a member of the bloc, the UK will not have a formal role and veto power on any new members of the CPTPP. 

A lengthy ratification process will now follow. techUK will keep monitoring developments and if members have any questions they should reach out to the trade team. 

Daniel Clarke

Daniel Clarke

Policy Manager for International Policy and Trade, techUK

Sabina Ciofu

Sabina Ciofu

Associate Director – International, techUK