United Kingdom eyes Pacific free trade group

Liam Fox's visit to China comes less than a month after Chancellor Philip Hammond made his own visit to Beijing

The UK's Department for International Trade is reportedly exploring the idea ofjoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to mitigate the impact of losing trade deals once it leaves the EU.

Ministers believe that membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could be part of the process of forging new trade deals when Britain leaves the EU.

Should Britain join the TPP, it would become the first member of the trade agreement to not border the Pacific Ocean or the South China Sea but junior trade minister Greg Hands insisted there weren't any geographical restrictions preventing the United Kingdom from joining.

But the remaining 11 members - Canada, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam - have pressed on and are working towards ratifying an agreement which does not include the US. Trade minister Greg Hands explained to the Financial Times, who insisted the trading group had no geographic requirements to enter it.

'Nothing is excluded in all of this, ' he said.

The U.K. exported just 1.6% of its goods to Japan in 2016, according to data compiled by the Observatory of Economic Complexity-and Japan is the largest economy in the TPP.

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Britain can not sign any trade agreements until after it has left the European Union, expected around March 2019.

In November 2017, Fox accused British businesses of not being enthusiastic enough about global trade, saying Britain must "get more of our companies to think about exporting overseas". It is similar to the EU's single market with unified trading terms.

Following eight years of negotiations an agreement had been reached, but that was thrown into doubt after President Trump honoured a campaign pledge and pulled out of the trade pact last year. "It's a great thing for the American worker".

Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader, said: "This plan smacks of desperation". These people want us to leave a market on our doorstep and join a different, smaller one on the other side of the world. "It's all pie in the sky thinking".

He said: "It is not the main event and at the moment the government is making a hash of that".

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