Japan’s foreign minister on Wednesday (5 August) began a three-day trip to Britain in a bid to wrap up negotiations on a post-Brexit trade agreement.
Toshimitsu Motegi will meet British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss during his visit which will see two days of economic talks.
It will be his first face-to-face meeting with Truss since they kicked off the trade negotiations via videoconference on 9 June, and both sides are hoping for a swift agreement.
Bilateral trade is currently conducted under a broad EU-Japan deal that came into effect last year, but the agreement will no longer apply to Britain from 31 December.
Britain left the European Union in January but agreed a standstill transition until the end of the year — and is racing to secure a raft of both replica and new trade agreements before that date.
The new UK-Japan deal is expected to be based on the European agreement but London wants to expand it into digital trade and is also hoping to win the reduction of additional Japanese tariffs.
It would be the first that Britain had negotiated since Brexit, although existing EU deals with other countries have been rolled over. London remains locked in talks with Brussels and the United States.
Before he left Japan, Motegi said he would discuss with Truss “the rapid conclusion of a new Japan-UK economic partnership, which hopefully will be a final stage consultation”, according to Nikkei Asian Review.
Japan’s chief negotiator Hiroshi Matsuura told the Financial Times in June that negotiations must be completed by the end of July to allow ratification of the deal before it comes into effect in January.
The British trade ministry said this week it hoped a deal could be signed in September.
“Both sides are committed to an ambitious timeline to secure a deal that will enter into force by the end of 2020 if at all possible,” a ministry spokesman said.
“Our priority is to maintain and enhance the trading relationship between our two countries.”
UK-Japanese trade was worth more than £30 billion (€33 billion) last year, according to the British government.