Deal with Vietnam takes UK closer to joining trans-Pacific trade group
Gary Parkinson
The trade deal between the UK and Vietnam comes into force – and could represent a step towards the European country joining a Pacific bloc. /People's Vision/VCG

The trade deal between the UK and Vietnam comes into force – and could represent a step towards the European country joining a Pacific bloc. /People's Vision/VCG


The UK's trade deal with Vietnam has come into force, as the British government continues its attempts to join an 11-nation trans-Pacific economic bloc. 

The free trade agreement was struck in late December, two days before the UK completed its transition out of the European Union, but has come into force on May 1. 

A joint statement published on the UK government website reiterates the two countries' "strong and growing bilateral trade relationship" and "strategic commitment to global trade, the free flow of capital and investments," saying the agreement covers $7 billion in trade including "machinery, mechanical appliances and pharmaceutical products" from the UK and "phones and components, garments, footwear and fish" from Vietnam.

The agreement also includes "a high level of protection" for intellectual property rights, citing "Scotch whisky, Scottish farmed salmon, Irish whiskey and Irish cream" plus Vietnamese agricultural products "including Moc Chau tea, Buon Ma Thuot coffee, Hai Hau rice and Phu Quoc fish sauce."



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Since deciding to leave the EU the UK has had to agree its own trade alliances and has been lobbying to join the 11-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which currently includes Vietnam along with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Singapore.

Operative since 2018, the CPTPP evolved out of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was agreed in 2016 but never ratified after the U.S. was withdrawn by its then President Donald Trump. In 2019 the combined economies of its 11 members represented 13 percent of global GDP.

The UK's international trade secretary Liz Truss has made no secret of her country's desire to join the CPTPP. In February she told parliament it was "a critical part of the Government's wider trade strategy" and last weekend she finished three days of face-to-face negotiations with Australian trade minister Dan Tehan, with a deal between those two countries expected next month.

"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 last weekend. 

"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."

China has also been considering whether to join the CPTPP.

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