UK and Japan set to start trade negotiations

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The UK and Japanese governments will today start negotiating a UK-Japan Free Trade Agreement.

The agreement will build on the existing EU-Japan deal. It will go further by securing additional benefits in areas such as digital trade, and providing support for the UK’s 5.9 million small businesses.

It will allow the UK and Japan to set new standards in areas of digital technology and e-commerce, helping to establish our position as a global technology superpower.

Last year, UK trade with Japan was worth over £30bn and 9,500 UK based businesses exported goods to the country, helping to employ 2.4 million people across the UK. A bespoke free trade agreement with Japan will help generate significant opportunities throughout the economy, creating jobs, boosting wages and diversifying choice for consumers.

UK-Japan trade talks are also an important step towards our joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a key UK priority, which will help us diversify our trade and grow the economy.

The UK and Japan are committed to an ambitious timeline to secure a deal that will enter into force by the end of 2020. Both countries are also dedicated to leading the global response to the economic challenges posed by coronavirus, making international trade easier and fairer and avoiding a retreat into protectionism.

The International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Motegi Toshimitsu are launching negotiations via video conference call.

On the UK side, talks will be led at official level by Graham Zebedee, with all UK trade negotiations being overseen by Crawford Falconer, DIT’s Chief Trade Negotiation Adviser.

Government analysis shows a UK Japan FTA will benefit every region and nation of the UK, with the greatest benefits in Scotland, London and the East Midlands.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “Today marks a historic moment in the long-standing friendship between the UK and Japan. As we kick start trade talks, we aim to strike a comprehensive free trade agreement that goes further than the deal previously agreed with the EU, setting ambitious standards in areas such as digital trade and services. A trade deal with Japan will also advance the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will improve market access for UK businesses across the Asia-Pacific region.

“This deal will provide more opportunities for businesses and individuals across every region and nation of the UK and help boost our economies following the unprecedented economic challenges posed by coronavirus.”

Takaaki Hanaoka, Secretary General of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry in the UK said: “We, Japanese Chamber of Commerce& Industry in the UK welcome the movement of starting negotiation of Free Trade agreement by both UK and Japanese governments.

“The UK and Japan have common ground in that both have mature markets and societies. Both can be partners in further developing economic activities through mutual trade and investment. We urge strongly that a legally binding FTA between UK and Japan be agreed at the earliest opportunity.”

Negotiations will be conducted remotely, via videoconference, across six working groups and will cover all 23 chapters and annexes of the future agreement. Around 100 negotiators will be involved on the UK side.


Industry reaction

Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “The launch of the UK-Japan talks is a big step forward to creating an ambitious free trade agreement. Japan offers huge opportunities for two-way trade and investment, one that will benefit every region and nation across the country. Business is optimistic that a deal focused on supporting digital trade and industries of the future can be reached.”

The government is committed to conducting trade negotiations transparently, and we will provide further information on the progress of the talks as they go on.

Paul Patterson, Senior Vice President, Head of Fujitsu UK and Chair of the UK-Japan Tech Forum said: “Fujitsu is delighted to see the beginning of trade negotiations between the UK and Japan. This is a fantastic opportunity to build on the longstanding and deep rooted partnership between the UK and Japan.  Strengthening this relationship further has the potential to bring enormous benefits to both countries.

“It is welcome that technology is recognised as a key component of the future relationship which will ensure the flow of innovation, open up trade and crucially drive future investment.  Putting technology at the heart of the future agreement will ultimately benefit every sector of the economy and be felt right across the regions of the UK.

“As one of the leading Japanese investors in the UK, we look forward to working with the UK and Japanese Governments to help secure a future relationship which encourages growth and brings prosperity to businesses, entrepreneurs, investors and exporters across the UK and Japan.”

Ian Tandy, Head of Trade for HSBC UK, said: “We recognise the importance of these free trade negotiations which are essential to provide certainty for our customers along the UK-Japan trade corridor after Brexit.

“From financial services to fashion, Japan is already an important global market for UK firms, with 8,000 UK SMEs already exporting to Japan.  Our customers are telling us that the food and drink sector provides particular opportunities for growth. Exports from the UK into Japan in this sector grew by almost 14% last year led by high-end brands and the lifting in 2019 of  the bans on British beef and lamb.”

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