We are now just ‘weeks away’ from signing our first post-Brexit trade deal, with Japan. Another, with New Zealand, is said to be close behind. Those enigmatic trade deals which the Remain campaign told us were a ludicrous fantasy are already materialising before our eyes, months before we leave the EU in practice in December, when the transition period comes to an end.
But buried underneath the scoop about our astonishing progress in negotiations with Japan was a secondary but even more significant story. International trade secretary Liz Truss now reportedly has ‘senior backing’ for the UK to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP is shaping up to be very important indeed. It is becoming what BRICS was supposed to be, and what the EU always dreamed of being. It could well be the bloc that determines the direction of the global economy and the international political order for the foreseeable future.
The TPP already includes the likes of the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and several others. The way it seems to be going, it is on course to effectively incorporate every major political and economic player in the world, with one glaring omission – China.
China, it seems, is going out of its way to alienate the rest of the world in the most dramatic ways imaginable. It was barely a year ago that the British government was cheerily signing up Huawei to build its 5G mobile network. Now, not only has that deal well and truly fallen through, but relations with China have reached an all-time low, thanks to three major series of incidents.
First, China blatantly violated the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement in Hong Kong. It implemented violent crackdowns on protesters and is now compromising citizens’ rights in terrifying ways by boosting authoritarian powers through the so-called ‘national security law’. Countries around the world felt forced to take the unprecedented step of suspending extradition treaties with Hong Kong. Britain had no choice but to offer a ‘path to citizenship’ for BNO residents.
Meanwhile, a profoundly troubling stream of stories has been emerging around apparent coverups of vital information relating to coronavirus. Just this week, whistle-blowers have cast more light on the shadowy workings of the CCP government. We may never know just how many thousands of deaths could have been prevented if China had been more open with its information.
Most disturbingly of all, China is engaged in an ongoing genocide of the Uighur Muslim population of the Xinjiang region. In an appalling government program comparable to the Srebrenica massacre or the persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, China is apparently seeking to eliminate a part of its own population. It flat-out denies what is obviously true, thereby letting slip that it thinks the West is both weak and stupid.
China’s belligerent behaviour on the international stage and its atrocious conduct within its own borders, combined with the presence of a hawkish nationalist in the White House, makes something of a new cold war inevitable. With Xi Jinping installed as ‘president for life’ and power being rapidly centralised in Beijing, it is becoming increasingly clear that China has no intention of backing down on any of these fronts.
That is why it is so crucial that Britain is clearly seen to be standing firmly alongside its Western allies as the battle lines of this new cold war, which is likely to determine the direction of international politics for decades, are drawn.
Securing trade deals with some of the biggest non-European economies in the world is a strong first step, but there is much further to go. It is now imperative that the Global Britain we have heard so much about is seen to stand unequivocally for the rights of all people, wherever they are in the world, and place itself on the right side of history.
It therefore makes a great deal of sense for the UK to seek to join the TPP. There is a counter-Chinese bloc forming, and Britain must place itself at the heart of it. That would steel us well to fortify our post-Brexit economy and, much more importantly, show that Little England was always just a figment of the Remainer imagination. A true Global Britain was always going to be our post-EU direction of travel.