The alliance representing Canada’s export-oriented agriculture sectors is welcoming a decision by countries in the CPTPP to formally begin negotiations to have the United Kingdom join the trade agreement formerly known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In a virtual meeting hosted by Japan on Tuesday, Canada’s trade minister, Mary Ng, and her counterparts from the other CPTPP countries agreed to establish an “Accession Working Group” to begin talks with the UK.

“Canada welcomes the United Kingdom’s interest in joining the CPTPP and would welcome the agreement’s expansion to economies able to meet its high-standard commitments on the environment, labour, women’s participation, and much more,” said Ng, in a statement following the meeting.

The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA), whose members include national organizations representing the beef, pork, meat, grains, cereals, pulses, soybeans, canola sectors, applauded the step toward allowing the UK into the deal.

“Canadian agri-food exporters have long welcomed the idea that the CPTPP pact would continue to grow provided new members agree to the high level of ambition this agreement has achieved,” notes CAFTA president Dan Darling. “The UK is one of Canada’s key trading partners in the Atlantic. We welcome the launch of the negotiations of the UK’s accession to the CPTPP. This demonstrates a commitment to free, open and rules-based trade.”

Canada and the UK have also pledged to begin negotiations on a bilateral trade deal after passing an interim agreement at the start of 2021 following the UK’s departure from the European Union and the Canada-EU trade agreement.

“In addition to the CPTPP, we will continue to urge both Canada and the UK to launch permanent, comprehensive bilateral free trade talks without delay,” says Darling.

Related: UK transitional trade deal a “stop gap,” but not enough, say agriculture groups

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