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Australia would welcome UK interest in joining Pacific trade group

[LONDON] Australia would welcome interest from Britain in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional trade group after it has left the European Union, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Monday.

Britain's trade minister Liam Fox said earlier this year that joining the TPP was an option for the country after Brexit although it was too early to talk about any plans to sign up to the 11-nation group.

"We would of course welcome interest from an economy the size of Britain's," Ms Bishop said in response to a question after delivering a speech in London.

The 11 TPP countries - which include Japan, Canada and Mexico as well as Australia - are due to sign their agreement in March. US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the group soon after taking office but he said in January that Washington might yet stay in.

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Ms Bishop also said Australia was keen to pursue a bilateral free trade agreement with Britain as soon as it could.

"I believe that, post Brexit, there will be enormous opportunities to engage more closely in trade and investment,"she said.

"When the circumstances are right, when the timing is right, Australia would be keen to pursue a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom. High quality, comprehensive, gold standard." Ms Bishop said Australia would want to secure rights for its citizens to work in Britain as part of any such deal.

REUTERS

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