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Liz Truss hails ‘historic moment’ as Britain and Japan start post-Brexit trade talks

The UK’s Department for International Trade said the agreement would ‘build on the existing EU-Japan deal’

2 min read

Liz Truss has said the start of post-Brexit trade talks between Britain and Japan represents an “historic moment” for the two countries.

The International Trade Secretary said Britain wanted to go “further than the deal previously agreed” between Japan and the European Union in negotiations on a free-trade agreement that kick off on Tuesday.

Britain’s trade ties with Japan are currently set by the EU, but the UK is on course to end its current transition period with the bloc at the close of 2020.

Britain and Japan are therefore hoping to secure a deal that will kick in at the end of this year as the UK fully leaves the bloc.

The Department for International Trade said the agreement would “build on the existing EU-Japan deal”, with the Government eyeing “additional benefits” in areas including digital technology and e-commerce in a bid to establish the UK as a “global technology superpower”.

It estimates that the total value of trade between the two countries stood at more than £30bn in 2019.

The first round of talks will take place by videolink because of the global Covid-19 pandemic, with Ms Truss and the Japanese minister for foreign affairs Motegi Toshimitsu opening the discussions before handing over to officials split into six working groups. 

The DIT said around 100 negotiators would take part from the UK side.

Ms 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.”

The UK has already begun pushing to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) after it leaves the EU.

The free trade agreement between Canada,  Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam aims to create a single trading bloc ditching 99% of tarriffs between the countries.

But union group TUC has warned that such a move would pose “significant threats” to workers’ rights and standards — and has urged the Government to make a more “convincing case” for taking part in the tie-up.

The International Trade Secretary said a trade deal with Japan would “advance the UK’s accession” to the CPTPP, a move she said would “improve market access for UK businesses across the Asia-Pacific region” and “help boost our economies following the unprecedented economic challenges posed by coronavirus”.

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