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United Kingdom could join Pacific free-trade group after Brexit, government says

United Kingdom could join Pacific free-trade group after Brexit, government says

Britain could join the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to kick-start exports after Brexit.

According to the Financial Times, Britain has already begun informal talks to join the bloc as it seeks to kick-start its exports after leaving the European Union in March 2019.

It could also breathe new vigor into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) initiated by former US President Barack Obama, which was hard hit by Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the agreement previous year.

It would be the first member of the trade deal, properly called the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Paternship, to not border the Pacific Ocean or the South China Sea.

Greg Hands, a United Kingdom trade minister, told the FT, which broke the story, the distance between Britain and the TPP countries was not a problem. The US had been key to talks that began in 2010 to create TPP by expanding an existing trade deal.

Following the U.S. withdrawal from the bloc in January past year, the remaining members of the TPP - Australia, Mexico, Singapore, Canada, Chile, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Peru, Vietnam and Malaysia - began renegotiating the agreement under the new title of Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The TPP has 11 members following the withdrawal of the United States previous year.

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A Department for International Trade spokesman says it is "early days" in the UK's quest to sign new deals.

Fox is travelling to Beijing and Shenzhen on his first worldwide visit of 2018 to "advance the UK's trade and investment relationship", the Department for global Trade said on its website. In the meantime, Great Britain can choose to reach bilateral agreements with member countries before agreeing to join the TPP in full.

The UK is not allowed to make trade deals before it formally leaves the EU.

Others pointed out that Japan, which is the largest economy within the TPP grouping, accounted for just 1.6% of UK's goods exports in 2016, according to the MIT's Observatory of Economic Complexity.

However, critics said membership of TPP would not compensate for leaving the EU's single market.

Lib Dem Tim Farron said: "This plan smacks of desperation. It's all pie in sky thinking".