The UK and Japan yesterday signed a trade agreement, marking the UK’s first big post-Brexit deal on trade, as it continues to struggle to agree on a deal with its closest trading partners in the EU.
The UK left the EU in January and it has since focused on negotiating new trade pacts with other nations before its transition period ends on Dec. 31.
“How fitting it is to be in the land of the rising sun to welcome in the dawn of a new era of free trade,” British Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss told reporters after the signing ceremony in Tokyo. “This is the first new free-trade deal to be agreed since the UK once again became an independent trading nation.”
The signing came after Truss and Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi reached a broad agreement last month.
Motegi said that the signing came just four-and-a-half months after the start of negotiations.
“This is a manifestation of the determination of Japan and the United Kingdom to carry on vigorously promoting free trade,” he said.
The UK has said that the deal would mean 99 percent of its exports to Japan would be tariff-free and that it could increase trade by ￡15.2 billion (US$19.9 billion) in the long term, compared with 2018.
The deal removes the UK’s tariffs on Japanese vehicles in stages to zero in 2026, which is the same as in the Japan-EU trade agreement.
Motegi said after the signing that he had agreed with Truss to work together so that the deal would come into force on Jan. 1.
He also said that Japan welcomes the UK’s interest in joining the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade deal and intends to provide necessary support.
Japan is already a member of the CPTPP, which also includes Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
In a meeting with Japanese Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Yasutoshi Nishimura later in the day, Truss said that there would be a bigger opportunity with the UK’s presidency of the G7 and Japan’s chair of the CPTPP next year to challenge rising protectionism and make the case for free trade.
Truss also expressed the UK’s strong interest in joining the CPTPP, Nishimura said.
“If UK submits an application to join the CPTPP next year, Japan will fulfill our role as a chair nation,” he said.
Truss has already said that the UK hopes to apply to join the CPTPP early next year.
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