Outline agreement reached for UK to join CPTPP

Friday, 31 March 2023

On Friday 31 March, the government announced an outline agreement had been reached for the UK to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Our analysis shows we do not expect the CPTPP deal to cause dramatic changes to trade, particularly in the short-term, with potential for modest increases in UK exports of beef, dairy and pork in the medium to long-term.

There are permanent inward tariff rate quotas (TRQs) for pork and beef but our analysis shows that currently trade between the UK and CPTPP for these products is low and the volumes are unlikely to be utilised unless there are dramatic changes to trading patterns.

Below is our initial assessment of the implications for agriculture. AHDB is working on a comprehensive impact assessment, intended for publication in April 2023.

Key messages

  • We don’t expect the CPTPP deal to cause dramatic changes to trade, particularly in the short-term
  • Among CPTPP are some major agricultural exporters, notably Australia and New Zealand – who could expand their imports to the UK whilst providing limited opportunities for our exports The CPTPP deal will not worsen this possible impact however, as UK has already agreed comprehensive FTAs with these countries, which this FTA will not alter
  • The CPTPP FTA will make trade easier with a lot of countries, and on balance we expect this will be of benefit to agriculture in the medium to long-term. CPTPP is large and varied market and includes counties with large and growing requirements for agricultural imports such as Japan, Vietnam, Mexico and Malaysia
  • There will be an inward beef TRQ starting at 2.6 Kt increasing in equal increments to 13 Kt by year 10 of the agreement
  • There will be an inward pork TRQ starting at 10 Kt increasing in equal increments to 55 Kt by year 10 of the agreement
  • Lamb will be fully liberalised (except for New Zealand and Australia) but there are no other major lamb exporters in CPTPP
  • Butter and cheese will be liberalised over 11 years

What is CPTPP?

CPTPP is a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between 11 nations including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

These countries collectively account for about 500 million people and generate 13% of global GDP.

What will membership mean for the UK?

CPTPP will not eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers between the UK and other members.  This is because members of CPTPP independently set their import tariffs. However, CPTPP members do give each other preferential terms and aim to lower or remove tariffs over time.

It is also worth noting that the UK already has preferential deals with the majority of CPTPP members:

  • There are ‘continuity’ agreements (which replaced arrangements the UK had as part of the EU) with Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
  • During 2021/22 the UK agreed new FTAs with Australia and New Zealand.

There are potential benefits of joining. Firstly, the UK will have preferential arrangements with Brunei and Malaysia for the first time although the benefits here will be quite limited as most agricultural products can already enter either of these markets tariff-free.

Secondly, we expect that CPTPP terms will have lower tariffs and/or higher tariff-free quotas than the existing continuity agreements. This will reduce barriers to trade.

Implications for UK agriculture

In a previous blog AHDB's Amandeep Kaur Purewal highlighted that agricultural trade was unlikely to be at the top of the list of drivers for the UK’s accession. Instead, the UK case for joining focused on the benefits for ‘digital trade’ and ‘services’. That said there will be implications for agriculture.

CPTPP is already an important trading partner for agricultural products. Collectively the UK is a net importer from CPTPP. As table 1 shows the UK exports around £1.8bn (9% of total food exports), compared to imports of £3.1bn (6% of total).

Table 1: UK Food, Drink and other agricultural product trade with CPTPP (2021)

 £ millions% share£ millions% share









































New Zealand




















Source: AHDB (using HMRC data through TDM)

UK imports are varied and include beverages, fruit and nuts, meat ,cereals and oilseeds. Exports to CPTPP are dominated by beverages and spirits, with preparations of cereals and flour also notable.

There are currently high tariffs on meat and dairy products which prohibit greater UK exports to some CPTPP members - such as Canada, Japan, Mexico and Vietnam. Exporters will be hopeful that lower tariffs will remove trade barriers and establish strong trading partnerships in countries where we presently have limited exports.  

Future growth opportunities for dairy and red meat?

A number of CPTPP members are expecting to see significant growth in their food imports particularly for red meat and dairy products. This is fuelled by a combination of population growth and economic development causing a rapid expansion of middle class consumers. According to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts imports are expected to grow:

  • Pork: 19% by 2031 to a combined 3.9 Mt – focused on Japan, Vietnam, Mexico and Canada.
  • Beef: 16% by 2031 to a combined 1.8 Mt – focused on Japan, Malaysia, Mexico and Canada
  • Dairy – significant growth in Malaysia and Japan for butter and cheese, and for skimmed milk powder in Mexico 

Implications of increased Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) for beef and pork

There will be inward TRQs for beef and pork for selected CPTPP countries; Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico and Peru. The beef TRQ volume will reach 13 Kt by year 10 of the agreement, starting at 2.6 Kt in year 1 and rising in equal annual increments. The pork TRQ volume will be 55 Kt by year 10 of the agreement, starting at 10 Kt in year 1 and rising in equal annual increments. This is a significant increase from the current agreement and does present some issues and risks for the UK beef and pork industries.

The major exporter of beef and pork within this group of countries is Canada. Our analysis shows that three quarters of beef exports from Canada head to the USA, and the remainder goes to Asian markets such as Japan and China. Currently there is only 1.3 Kt of beef exported to the UK in comparison to 298.5 Kt to the USA.

The current TRQ for both fresh and frozen beef is 3.8 Kt which is not currently utilised. The sticking point for Canadian beef exports is the requirement for imports into the UK to be hormone-free. Canadian farmers do use growth hormones in beef production which the UK has banned. This is currently a barrier for Canadian exports and could prevent exports increasing significantly in the future.

Canada is the third largest exporter of pork (the EU is the largest exporter). They currently produce 2.2 Mt annually and export around 50% of it. The key markets are once again the USA, China, Japan and Mexico. The current TRQ for pork into the UK is 5.8Kt but they currently only export 149 T to the UK showing that the quota is not currently utilised.

Although the TRQs are increasing and give Canada increased access to the UK beef and pork markets our analysis shows that this does not present an immediate threat to the UK industry. Canada does not utilise the current quotas and has already established markets in USA and Asia which take the bulk of exports.

We are currently working on the impact assessment which will model the impact of the UK accession to CPTPP and give us more of an indication of how trade will change.