EU are you watching? UK and Japan to thrash out bumper trade deal as Brussels talks falter

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International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will begin their discussions on Tuesday, Japanese newspaper Nikkei claimed. The ministers, who will speak via video conference, intend to strike a deal which would come into force from the start of 2021, Nikkei said.

Japan is hoping to clinch favourable deals in areas including automobiles, while the UK is keen to focus on the financial sector, the paper added.

The UK published its negotiating objectives for a free trade agreement with Japan on May 13.

These include increasing UK GDP and providing new opportunities for UK businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and investors, and increasing the resilience of supply chains.

Speaking at the time, Ms Truss said: “Japan is one of our largest trading partners and a new trade deal will help to increase trade, boost investment and create more jobs following the economic challenges caused by coronavirus.

“Both sides are committed to an ambitious timeline to secure a deal that goes even further than the existing agreement especially in digital and data.

“Negotiations with Japan are an important step in CPTPP accession, a key UK priority, which will help us diversify our trade and grow the economy.”

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However, speaking to the Japan Times on Thursday, Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of the European Center for International Political Economy, warned hurdles remain.

He said: “FTAs are never cut-and-paste exercises.

“Everyone has to pay for what they want and I think Japan will be tough on tariffs.

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“Japan has already closed the door on further farming reforms including concessions to the European Union and the United States.

“It would take a lot for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to return to the Diet asking for the same for the United Kingdom.”

Britain has also applied to become a dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Government confirmed on Friday, as it seeks to boost post-Brexit ties in the region.

ASEAN has 10 existing dialogue partners including the European Union, which Britain left at the end of January, as well as Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States.

Britain said it hoped partnership status with the 10-member ASEAN, which seeks to accelerate economic growth, social progress and collaboration in the region, would lead to new opportunities across trade, education, science and security.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “As Asia grows in importance, global Britain will cooperate even more closely with our friends in the region.

“By becoming one of ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, we can strengthen our ability to cooperate across the Indo-Pacific region, as a force for good, on everything from climate change to regional stability.”

The UK already has an ambassador to ASEAN, whose members include Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Being a dialogue partner would allow Britain to attend annual ASEAN summits and ministerial meetings.

The news comes as the UK trade talks with the EU have collapsed after the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said “no significant areas of progress” had been made last week.

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