Britain targets Pacific trading bloc in bid for £18BN boost

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Britain is racing to complete negotiations to join a trading bloc of 11 Pacific-facing countries with a combined GDP of £9trillion in a move it is hoped could boost British exports by £18billion. Prime Minister Liz Truss has said that joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a “top priority”.

In Japan, Mr Cleverly will attend the state funeral of slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. On his Korean visit, he will visit the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) bordering North Korea, and in Singapore, he will set out Britain’s vision for the region at a major summit.

He said: “As I start my visit to the region in Japan, my thoughts are with the Japanese people as we remember the legacy of former Prime Minister Abe – their longest-serving prime minister who brought our two countries closer together.”

The UK has a long-term commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, as we look to establish a greater and more persistent presence than any other European country.  

“This in turn will boost economic development, strengthen trade ties and enhance security”.

His visit comes as the UK kicks off a major series of exercises in the Indo-Pacific. Members of the armed forces will train with counterparts from Australia, Japan, Korea and other nations in the region.

According to the Ministry of Defence, the Indo-Pacific is “critical” to the UK’s economy, security and  “global ambition to support open societies”.

Four Typhoon fighters and one Voyager air-to-air refuelling aircraft from the RAF took part in Exercise Pitch Black in Darwin, Australia.

Around 100 aircraft and 2,500 personnel from 17 countries participated in the epic training exercise.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Security and stability throughout the Indo-Pacific remains paramount, and with the Pitch Black exercises and the persistent presence of the Royal Navy in the Pacific, we are able to demonstrate our commitment and shared responsibility across the region and further strengthen our close ties with friends and allies.”

The Foreign Office says the visit by the 53-year-old Braintree MP Mr Cleverly, who served as Education Secretary in the final era of Boris Johnson’s Government, demonstrates the importance of the “Indo-Pacific tilt” – the UK’s policy of strengthening its influence in the region.

Britain describes Japan as its “closest security partner in Asia” and Japan has backed the UK’s application to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In South Korea, Mr Cleverly will discuss cooperation with the UK on security and economic challenges including Ukraine, Russia and China.

And in Singapore, he will launch the new British Investment International (BII) Office in a bid to boost investment in green infrastructure and establish a “significant economic hub”.

Mr Cleverly’s visit to the region follows Prime Minister Liz Truss’s meeting with Japanese PM Fumio Kishida at the UN General Assembly in New York, where she thanked him for his support for the UK joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The mutual enthusiasm for the trade deal contrasts with the slow progress made on securing a trade deal with the United States.

Last week Ms Truss admitted there are not “currently any negotiations taking place with the US” and said she did not have “an expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term”. 

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