Britain signs first major post-Brexit trade deal with Japan

British Secretary of State for International Trade Elizabeth Truss (L) and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi (R) exchange agreement documents for economic partnership between Japan and Britain at Iikura Annex of the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, Japan, 23 October 2020. [EPA-EFE/KIMIMASA MAYAMA]

Britain and Japan formally signed a trade agreement on Friday (23 October), 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 European Union.

“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 Trade Secretary 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 agreement we have negotiated – in record time and in challenging circumstances – goes far beyond the existing EU deal,” she said in a statement, calling the agreement “historic”.

The signing comes after Truss and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi reached a broad agreement in September.

Motegi pointed out that the signing came about in just four and a half months since 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.

Britain has said the deal meant 99% of its exports to Japan would be tariff-free, and that it could increase trade by 15.2 billion pounds ($19.9 billion) in the long run, compared with 2018.

The deal removes Britain’s tariffs on Japanese cars in stages to zero in 2026, which is the same as in the Japan-EU trade agreement.

EU and Japan 'cement' relationship against Trump’s protectionism

The European Union and Japan signed a long-awaited commercial trade deal on Tuesday (17 July), in an emphatic statement meant to counter US President Donald Trump’s attacks against free trade and the rules-based international order.

Motegi said after the signing that he had agreed with Truss to work together so that the deal will come into force on January 1, 2021.

He also said Japan welcomes Britain’s interest in joining the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) free trade deal, and intends to provide necessary support.

Japan is already a member of the CPTPP, which also links Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

MEPs clear EU-Japan trade deal for early 2019 start

After almost five years of negotiations, the European Parliament ratified the EU-Japan trade deal on Wednesday (12 December), sealing the biggest ever trade agreement negotiated by the European Union.   

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