UK, Japan free trade talks kick off

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi (R) and British International Trade Secretary Liz Truss in Tokyo, 20 September 2019.

Britain and Japan launched free trade negotiations Tuesday as the two large economies seek to seal a post-Brexit deal, said British Secretary of State for International Trade Elizabeth Truss. Talks are held via video conference and kicked off by Truss and Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi.

Truss said the free trade agreement with Japan will act as an important milestone towards the UK's accession to Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a goal which Japan fully supports. She said the trade talks are the right response to the unprecedented economic challenge posed by coronavirus, creating a fairer international trade regime and thus avoiding protectionism and state domination of the economy.

After decades outsourcing its trade policy to the European Union, Britain is embarking on negotiating free trade deals with countries around the world, and last month launched formal negotiations with the United States. Trade deals typically take years to complete. Britain is also hoping to reach a trade agreement with the EU by the end of the year.

"This deal will provide more opportunities for businesses and individuals across every region and nation of the UK and help boost our economies following the unprecedented economic challenges posed by coronavirus," Truss said in a statement.

Britain said it aimed to reach a deal which builds on Japan's existing agreement with the EU, going further by including areas such as digital trade.

Japan was Britain's fourth-biggest non-EU trading partner in 2019, with total trade between the two countries of 31.4 billion pounds, according to government statistics.

Britain hopes ultimately to join the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and sees trade talks with Japan as a step towards that end.

Britain said around 100 negotiators would be involved on its side, with talks led by Graham Zebedee, a former British ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and overseen by Britain's Chief Trade Negotiation Adviser Crawford Falconer.  

The ongoing negotiations came after Britain failed to score any breakthrough with the EU in their fourth round of future partnership talks and after London launched formal talks with Washington on a trade agreement.

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