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Britain accepts historic post-Brexit pact with Japan



The UK has entered into a free trade agreement with Japan, its first major deal as an independent trading nation. It is a welcome success for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and also an endorsement from Abenomics.

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Boris Johnson said the UK-Japan Free Trade Agreement was the first major deal of its kind since Brexitshows, Britain would continue to thrive outside the European Union.

The prime minister said it will boost trade between the two countries by around £ 15 billion ($ 19.23 billion) and bring many long-term benefits to businesses. For example, 99% of British goods entering Japan will soon be duty-free and duty-free.

UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss says the deal will be particularly beneficial for tech industries and the creative sector. There are also provisions for food and drink companies, including UK cheese makers, who hope to convince Japanese consumers to buy more of their specialties such as Cheddar, Wensleydale and Stilton.


Ms Truss says the deal was reached in record time and under difficult circumstances, and should therefore reassure Japanese investors in Britain. She hopes to restore trust with companies such as Hitachi, Toyota and Nissan, which have manufacturing bases in the UK.

In investigations by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, most of its members oppose Brexit, fearing it will disrupt their European operations.

Japan’s trade agreements with the UK are currently covered by an agreement with the European Union. However, the UK’s membership in the EU ended earlier this year and the transitional arrangements are expected to expire at the end of December. From next year, the level of tariffs imposed on British products with Japanese parts destined for the EU, such as Toyota cars exported from England, will depend on the outcome of ongoing trade negotiations between the British. and Europeans.

Even though the UK government was given a Brexit mandate in a referendum in 2017, there is still a deep disagreement between the UK and the EU over the terms of their future trade relations.

Britain’s ruling Conservative Party is taking an uncompromising stance, according to the European Union, creating a risk of leaving the bloc without a deal early next year.


Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Japanese exporters are also expected to do well. For example, most tariffs on auto and rail parts imported into Britain will be removed.

Another advantage is the increased opportunities for businessmen to travel between the two countries. Many Japanese organizations send key members of their team on secondment to the UK for a few years, to gain a better understanding of international trade.

The Japanese government has said the new agreement will also allow British skilled workers to enter Japan, to work in industries such as computers. Visa arrangements will be made easier, so that a British person transferring to Tokyo can take their spouse and children and stay there for up to five years.

Legacy of Abes

Amid all the negative Brexit headlines, the UK government is keen to portray the deal with Japan as a success. On the Japanese government side, the deal is hailed as a major achievement by Shinzo Abe. It was announced before he stepped down as prime minister, although it still needs to be ratified by the parliaments of both countries before entering into force.

The biggest political prize from Mr Abes’ point of view is the UK government’s commitment to become a full member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a multinational trade pact. Strategically, the deal is an important step in putting Britain at the center of a web of modern free trade agreements with like-minded friends and allies, the Commerce Secretary said, Liz Truss.

The CPTPP is the centerpiece of Mr. Abes’ foreign policy and its reach has grown significantly under his leadership. It now hosts countries far from Asia, such as Canada, Peru and Chile. Abes initially hoped he could persuade the United States to join, on the grounds that the pact would counterbalance China’s influence. Donald Trump refused. Yet under a Biden administration, America may well reconsider.

America first

The British government understands the difficulties in reaching a deal with Donald Trump. The UK’s plan to reach an interim free trade deal with the US in time for the November election has stalled. Officials are now quietly placing their hopes on a deal by next spring.

Economically, a deal with the United States is much more important to Britain than a deal with Japan, as America buys nearly a fifth of the UK’s exports, while Japan takes only 2%.

Nonetheless, given the political goodwill of the two governments and the strong will of companies to develop their export market, the relationship between the United Kingdom and Japan has many possibilities to develop and prosper. And with Britain now officially committed to being part of a network of like-minded friends and allies with Japan, there are obvious reasons Americans might want to join them. .

Author: Duncan Bartlett

Duncan Bartlett is a regular contributor to Japan Forward and is the editor-in-chief of Asian Affairs magazine. He also runs the news portal History of Japan, which includes podcasts on ppolicy and economy.

Duncan Bartlett


Duncan Bartlett is the editor of Asian Affairs and the author of the weekly Japan Story blog. He previously worked in Tokyo for the BBC.

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