Britain is reportedly interested in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc after it leaves the European Union.
Britain has started informal talks about joining the bloc in a bid to boost post-Brexit exports, the Financial Times newspaper said.
The United States pulled out of the talks to form the 12-nation bloc nearly a year ago, however the other TPP countries — including Australia — have pledged to move forward with plans for a trade group.
While British Trade Minister Liam Fox said Britain wanted “to talk to our global trading partners”, he said it was too soon to formally seek membership of the TPP.
“We don’t know what the success of the TPP is going to yet look like, because it isn’t yet negotiated,” he said.
“So, it would be a little bit premature for us to be wanting to sign up to something that we’re not sure what the final details will look like.
“However, we have said that we want to be an open, outward-looking country, and therefore it would be foolish for us to rule out any particular outcomes for the future. So, we’ll keep an open mind, and we’ll want to talk to our global trading partners.”
EU rules state that Britain cannot agree to new trade deals before it leaves the bloc in March 2019.
The newspaper quoted an official from a TPP country as saying it was “way too soon” to discuss UK accession before a Brexit deal.
The TPP has so far involved only countries around the Pacific Rim such as Japan, Canada and Mexico.
However, the UK’s junior trade minister Greg Hands said there was no geographical restriction that would prevent Britain’s participation.
“Nothing is excluded in all of this,” he told the Financial Times.
“With these kind of plurilateral relationships, there doesn’t have to be any geographical restriction.”
The 11 countries involved in the deal have been working to salvage it after the US decided to pull out in January last year.
In November, trade ministers from all of the nations agreed to rebadge the deal as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.