Liz Truss has warned that the UK, the newest member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), should ensure China can never join the Indo-Pacific trade bloc.
The former prime minister, who advocated a tough stance against China while in government, said it was “essential” to rule out the possibility of China following the UK into the group.
Ministers hailed the benefits of accession on Friday in what represents Britain’s biggest trade deal since leaving the EU.
Britain is the first new member, and first European nation, to join the bloc – comprising Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – since its formation in 2018.
It follows nearly two years of negotiations, culminating in intensive talks in Vietnam earlier this month, when representatives of the 11 existing members agreed to the UK joining.
Ms Truss, who made an application to join as trade secretary, was among those welcoming the accession.
She said: “The CPTPP is a vital economic bulwark against China and in due course I would like to see other like-minded free trading nations making their own applications to join.
“It is essential, however, that any idea of Chinese accession is ruled out and I would expect the British government now or in the future to oppose any such proposal.”
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith echoed those concerns.
“Now we are in CPTPP we should do our utmost to work with the others to veto China joining,” the backbencher told Politico.
“We should persuade the US to join as well.”