TOKYO — The 11-nation free trade group known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership said on Wednesday it would open talks on admitting the UK as a new member, potentially adding another US ally while Washington himself stays away.
The group said after an online meeting that the addition of the UK, the first potential member outside the Pacific region, “would send a strong signal to our trading partners around the world” and “help fight the protectionism and the use of unjustified restrictive trade measures. “
The TPP, which includes U.S. allies such as Japan, Canada, and Australia, was initially envisioned under the Obama administration as a U.S.-led bulwark against China. One of the first acts of then-President Donald Trump was to pull out of the group and its proposed free trade deal, which Trump said would be bad for American workers.
Under the leadership of Japan, the group struck a trade deal without the United States, which came into effect at the end of 2018. The deal eliminated most tariffs on trade between members, allowing agricultural powers such as Australia to export more to Japan, while helping Japanese exports. industrial products such as auto parts and the protection of intellectual property rights.
President Biden has shown little interest in revisiting the TPP issue, in part because free trade deals remain unpopular among many swing voters that Mr. Biden hopes to draw on his side. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in March that people like him who had advocated trade deals “were not doing enough to understand who would be negatively affected.”