Regional trade agreements (RTAs) have become increasingly popular in recent years, as countries seek to strengthen economic ties and promote regional integration. The United Kingdom is no exception, and as it navigates post-Brexit trade relationships, it has been active in seeking out and negotiating new RTAs.
One of the UK`s most significant RTAs is the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which consists of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. The UK joined EFTA in 1960 and remained a member until it joined the European Union in 1973. Following Brexit, however, the UK has expressed interest in rejoining EFTA, which would provide access to a market of over 14 million consumers.
Another important RTA for the UK is the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which includes 11 countries across the Pacific Rim, such as Canada, Australia, and Japan. Although the UK is not located in the Pacific Rim, it has expressed interest in joining the CPTPP as part of its efforts to broaden its trade relationships beyond Europe.
In addition to these agreements, the UK has also signed RTAs with a number of individual countries, such as South Korea, which has been in effect since 2011, and Japan, which came into effect in 2019. These agreements provide various levels of market access and tariff reductions for UK businesses.
However, the UK`s RTA negotiations have not always been smooth sailing. The country`s efforts to negotiate a trade deal with the European Union have been contentious, with disagreements over issues such as fishing rights and state aid. The final agreement reached in December 2020 provided for tariff-free trade in goods, but with new rules and regulations that businesses will need to navigate.
Another challenge for the UK is its relationship with the United States, which has been complicated by the presidency of Donald Trump and his America First policies. Although the UK had expressed interest in negotiating a trade deal with the US, the Biden administration`s focus on domestic issues and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may make this difficult in the short term.
Overall, the UK`s participation in RTAs is part of a broader strategy to maintain and expand its economic relationships in the wake of Brexit. While there are challenges and uncertainties ahead, these agreements offer the potential for increased market access and new business opportunities for UK companies.