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EU – Japan Trade Agreement lays foundation for prosperous future UK Deal

3 min read

As the UK leaves the EU we can hope to further encourage free trade through creating our own agreements and by engaging with partners around the world in the shared pursuit of prosperity and security, says the Minister for Trade and Investment, Greg Hands MP.

So as the Lords today discuss our withdrawal from the EU, the Commons will have the chance to debate the EU economic partnership agreement (EPA) with Japan, the world’s third largest economy. We want trade policy to work for the whole of the UK and it is important that parliament has the ability to scrutinise these decisions. 

As we leave the EU, we have a unique opportunity to revitalise our trading relationship with nations around the world. But first we must ensure that any agreements we are working hard to secure in the EU continue to take effect. That’s why I urge MPs, from all sides of the House, to today support the signature and conclusion of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

The agreement will see 91% of Japanese tariffs eliminated at entry for EU goods, and 97% eliminated over the long-term. This means lower costs for British businesses exporting to Japan and consumers here purchasing Japanese goods.

The agreement would see the whole UK benefit from these ambitious tariff reductions in a number of key areas:  Chemicals, motor vehicles, agricultural products, processed foods, beer, wine, and whisky exports, will all enjoy lower tariffs as a result of the agreement.

Indeed, it is estimated that the agreement could be worth up to £3bn to the British economy each year.

The UK has been one of the strongest advocates for the agreement within the EU and continue to be strong supporters of the EU ambitious free trade agenda. UK support for these agreements sends the world the strong message that we are committed to global free trade.

It is no surprise that the British and Japanese Prime Ministers agreed to quickly establish a new economic partnership between Japan and the UK, based on the final terms of the EPA. Japan is a like-minded partner, a supporter of free trade and recognises the benefits for consumers and businesses.

The agreement also reflects the shared values which make the UK and Japan natural trading partners. 

In Japan we have a great trading partner. Japanese companies invested £46.5bn into the UK in 2016.

As well as supporting businesses, The EU-Japan EPA sees Japan and the EU reiterate their commitment to the implementation of international environmental and labour standards.

We will continue to work with Japan to remove trading barriers between our countries and ensure our standards are maintained.

Japan represents an established market with diverse opportunities and many UK businesses are already making the most of these, with UK exports to Japan up 13.3% in a year to £14.3bn in 2017.

Japan has a clear desire to make use of the UK’s world-renowned service sector which has seen the UK achieve a £4.5bn services surplus with Japan. The EU-Japan EPA will provide greater certainty for suppliers of services, enabling them to grow exports further.

The UK will continue to be a strong advocate of free trade globally, and a defender of the multilateral rules-based system. Our commitment to this EPA between the EU and Japan demonstrates this.

As the UK leaves the EU we can hope to further encourage free trade through creating our own agreements and by engaging with partners around the world in the shared pursuit of prosperity and security.


Greg Hands is Minister for Trade and Investment and Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham.

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