LONDON – Japan Today
The British government is aiming to reach a trade deal with Japan “around the end of this month,” according to London’s chief negotiator with Tokyo.
“We are working very quickly and would both like to reach an agreement around the end of this month and sign a trade agreement formally in September,” Graham Zebedee said in an online business seminar earlier this month.
The two governments kicked off negotiations on June 9 and are keen to have a deal come into force by the end of this year when the free trade agreement between the European Union and Japan no longer applies to the United Kingdom, which left the regional bloc on Jan 31.
The countries are working to clinch an agreement on the basis of the Japan-EU FTA, with Tokyo looking to scrap auto tariffs as soon as possible while London wants benefits for its financial services and textile industries.
Trade between the two countries totaled about $38 billion in 2019, with Japan being the United Kingdom’s 11th largest export market and the United Kingdom the 12th biggest market for Japan.
In the July 2 webinar organized by the global consultancy group EY, Zebedee said, “We have looked at every aspect of the EPA (the Japan-EU deal) and decided whether we can improve on it.”
The negotiator with the Department for International Trade was referring to an economic partnership agreement, an arrangement that eliminates barriers to the free movement of goods, services and investment between countries.
Zebedee said there are some aspects in the existing pact that can be changed for the better in a new bilateral agreement. “The EPA is a starting point but not necessarily a finishing point.”
The Japan-European Union FTA came into effect in February last year, removing or lowering tariffs on agricultural products such as wine and cheese from Europe while scrapping the 10 percent tariff on Japanese automobiles in its eighth year and immediately removing those on auto parts.