© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Japan’s new Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura arrives at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) – Member nations of the Comprehensive and Progressive (NYSE:) Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on Wednesday officially agreed to allow the United Kingdom to start the process of joining the pact, Japan’s economy minister said.

Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters he welcomed the start of Britain’s joining process after hosting an online meeting of ministers from the 11 countries that make up the trans-Pacific trade pact.

“I think there’s a big meaning to this from a strategic viewpoint of strengthening economic relations between Japan and the United Kingdom,” Nishimura said.

The United Kingdom’s admission into CPTPP would bring the nominal gross domestic product of the zone covered by the pact almost on par with that of the European Union, he added.

“The commencement of an accession process with the United Kingdom and the potential expansion of the CPTPP will send a strong signal to our trading partners around the world,” the 11 member countries said in a statement.

Britain made a formal request to join the trade deal in February as it sought to open new avenues for post-Brexit trade and influence.

The CPTPP removes 95% of tariffs between its members: Japan, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, Chile and Malaysia. Unlike the EU, it does not aim to create a single market or a customs union, and it does not seek wider political integration.

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The United Kingdom and Japan signed off on a trade agreement in October last year, marking its first major post-Brexit deal on trade.

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