Accession would be a huge triumph for UK negotiators, and for the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Business and International Trade in particular. It would mark the point at which Brexit could not be reversed.
But there are even more important reasons why this is such an important global event that goes well beyond the narrow economic benefits for the UK.
For the first time, a major G7 country has chosen to accede to a regional grouping not because it is part of that region but rather because the agreement represents the most advanced and deeply liberalising agreement based on mutual recognition, equivalence and adequacy.
Increasingly, countries are viewing the CPTPP as the alternative liberalising framework to the WTO, which maximises regulatory competition. It is also a geo-economic and geo-political grouping which has a major impact on the way global trade agreements work. Now the CPTPP is not just a regional agreement, it becomes a real challenge to the atrophied WTO system – and will, hopefully encourage that system to “wake up”.
The UK has now made a choice about whether it wants a world of regulatory harmonisation or one of regulatory competition. Competition is the most powerful force known to man to create wealth and increase productivity and economic growth.
The CPTPP is also a bulwark against Chinese market distortions that are damaging the world and provides a platform where novel approaches to these anti-competitive market distortions can be agreed by a large like-minded global group.
CPTPP+UK has equivalent economic weight to the (EU-28)-UK. If this accelerates the possibility of the US rejoining the CPTPP – after it pulled out under Donald Trump – then it would become a grouping that spans around half of the global economy.