UK government signs trade deal with Japan in 'historic moment'

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2-min read
British International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, left, attends a signing ceremony with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, second right, to sign for economic partnership between Japan and Britain at Iikura Annex of the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. Japan and Britain signed a bilateral free trade deal Friday in the the first such major post-Brexit deal, reducing tariffs on Yorkshire lamb sold in Japan, as well as auto parts for Japan’s Nissan plant. (Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo via AP)
UK international trade secretary Liz Truss and Japanese foreign ,inister Toshimitsu Motegi. Photo: Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo via AP

The UK government has signed its trade deal with Japan, in what it called an “historic moment,” after it was agreed in principle in September this year.

The deal comes after decades of Japan negotiating trade agreements only via the European Union.

The UK–Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, as it is known, will boost trade by £15bn ($19.3bn) in the long-term, according to Britain’s department for international trade. However, analysts said the deal had only “very limited improvements” on the EU’s recent deal negotiated with Japan.

“The UK has officially signed an economic partnership agreement with Japan, marking an historic moment, as the UK’s first major trade deal as an independent trading nation and offering a glimpse of Global Britain’s potential,” said a UK government press release.

The deal includes “big benefits for digital and data, financial services, food and drink, and creative industries,” it added. It also includes a “strong commitment” from Japan to support the UK joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade area.

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International trade secretary Liz Truss said: “Today is a landmark moment for Britain. It shows what we can do as an independent trading nation, as we secure modern and bespoke provisions in areas like tech and services that are critical to the future of our country and the reshaping of our economy.”

But Dr Minako Morita-Jaeger, International Trade Policy Consultant and Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex, said: "While the Agreement has a certain political significance, its economic impact is likely to be very small because it contains very limited improvements relative to the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

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“The reality is that in order to conclude the deal within an unprecedentedly short negotiating time frame of two-three months, both governments had to downgrade the scope and the level of ambitions.

“Given that Japanese FDI has been playing an important role in UK economy and retaining its existing investment in post-Brexit is crucial, the UK Government should have shown a strong commitment to Japanese investment by including a comprehensive investment chapter encompassing investment protection and dispute settlement.”

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