Trade Minister Liam Fox says the UK wants to see how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) evolves before considering joining it, in a bid to boost exports after Brexit.
Never mind the distance: the UK won't rule out joining a Pacific free trade zone after Brexit.
The Financial Times reports ministers have held informal talks on joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which brings together 11 nations across Asia and the Americas and is being renegotiated after the United States withdrew from it last year.
On a two-day visit to China, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the UK wanted to see how the TPP evolved before considering joining it.
"We don't know what the success of the TPP is going to yet look like, because it isn't yet negotiated. 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," Fox told Reuters in an interview.
"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," he added.
Fox is travelling to Beijing and Shenzhen on his first international visit of 2018 to "advance the UK’s trade and investment relationship", the Department for International Trade said on its website.
In 2016, May caused a diplomatic spat by unexpectedly deciding to delay approval of a partly-Chinese funded nuclear power project. She later granted it, but the hiccup drew criticism from Beijing.
China is the UK’s fifth largest trading partner and Britain hopes to sign a free trade pact with it once it leaves the EU.
Fox said both countries must first discuss where their "greatest mutual benefits" are. He also said the UK is trying to update its post-Brexit trade agreements within the World Trade Organisation (WTO).