Members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreed on Britain joining the 11-nation free trade pact at an online ministerial meeting Friday, marking the first expansion of the deal and raising the bloc's share of global economic output to 15 percent.

Britain's accession to the high-standard TPP is widely seen as a counter to economic coercion and protectionism and a model case for future aspirants, including China and Taiwan. The trade bloc's gross domestic product currently accounts for 12 percent of world GDP.

Shigeyuki Goto, economic revitalization minister who is in charge of Japan's negotiations for the TPP, welcomed Britain's upcoming accession, saying it is "very significant" in terms of further promoting values, such as free trade and an open and competitive market, in and beyond the Pacific region.

Japanese economic revitalization minister Shigeyuki Goto speaks to reporters on March 31, 2023, in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

Friday's decision by member ministers, including those from Japan, Canada and Australia, is expected to be approved at the partnership's regular ministerial meeting slated for July.

In a statement, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, "Joining the CPTPP trade bloc puts the U.K. at the center of a dynamic and growing group of Pacific economies, as the first new nation and first European country to join."

Referring to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the formal name of the trade pact, Sunak added that "British businesses will now enjoy unparalleled access to markets from Europe to the south Pacific."

The TPP's Accession Working Group for Britain confirmed the country will comply with the bloc's existing rules and said they will cooperate to conclude the accession process in a timely manner, according to a joint ministerial statement.

The working group, chaired by Japan, also confirmed that Britain has provided "commercially meaningful market access offers of the highest standard on goods, services, investment, financial services, government procurement, state-owned enterprises and temporary entry for business persons," the ministers said.

Being part of the bloc means that more than 99 percent of British goods exports to CPTPP countries will become eligible for zero tariffs, including key exports such as cheese, cars, chocolate, machinery, gin and whisky, according to Sunak's office.

The trade alliance is designed to cut tariffs on agricultural and industrial products, ease investment restrictions and enhance intellectual property protections, with an eye on advancing economic integration among participating nations.

For Japan's part, tariffs for milled rice that will be exported to Britain will be eliminated following the accession. This move now "gives impetus to rice exports" amid the global popularity of "washoku" traditional Japanese cuisine, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

Japanese farm minister Tetsuro Nomura, meanwhile, said the inclusion of Britain in the trade bloc will have no significant impact on the agricultural sector in Japan.

The current TPP took effect in 2018 after the United States withdrew from the pact in 2017 under then President Donald Trump to pursue an "America First" economic policy aimed at protecting the domestic job market.

Japan will continue encouraging the United States to return to the TPP as U.S. engagement in the Indo-Pacific region is highly desirable from a strategic standpoint, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said separately.

Since leaving the European Union, Britain has been trying to boost trade with the Indo-Pacific region, which is home to 60 percent of the world's population and accounts for a large portion of global economic growth, according to the British government.

Britain in 2021 became the first non-Pacific country to formally request to join the TPP. So far, five economies -- China, Taiwan, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Uruguay -- have followed suit.

Japan, which played a leading role in the inauguration of the 11-member TPP, has taken a cautious stance on China's potential accession amid concerns about its compliance with rules on protecting intellectual property rights and other issues.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Friday that China is a "staunch advocate for trade liberalization and facilitation" and claimed its TPP accession would give member countries "more access to the Chinese market" and expand their trade cooperation with the world's second-largest economy.

She also said Beijing is firmly opposed to Taiwan's accession to "any agreement or organization of official nature." China regards the self-ruled island as its own.

Both Beijing and Taipei filed bids to join the TPP in 2021.

The TPP members also include Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

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