UK secures Vietnam backing to join Trans-Pacific trading group, Raab says

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HANOI/LONDON (Reuters) - Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said on Wednesday he hopes to conclude talks on a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom soon, the government said.

“Vietnam sees the UK as a major trading partner in Europe,” Phuc told British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at a meeting in Hanoi, the government said in a statement following their talks.

Phuc said a free trade deal with Britain, once it took effect, would “help both countries to boost economic recovery in post COVID-19 pandemic period.”

Britain left the European Union last January and is locked in negotiations with the bloc, its biggest trading partner, on a new trade deal from 2021.

Vietnam has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia backed strongly by robust exports. It has signed more than a dozen free trade agreements, including one with the European Union and an 11-country CPTPP deal that will slash tariffs across much of the Asia-Pacific.

Raab said earlier Wednesday that Britain had secured Vietnam’s public support for it to join CPTPP, formally known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“This is a significant step in taking the UK-Vietnam economic relationship to the next level, and demonstrating the UK’s commitment and value to the region,” Raab said on Twitter.

The CPTPP is a free trade agreement that links Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Khanh Vu; writing by Kate Holton; editing by Michael Holden, William Maclean