The United Kingdom and Japan signed their bilateral trade agreement in Tokyo on Friday, the first major post-Brexit treaty for London.
Covering sectors ranging from textiles to new technologies, cheese and auto parts, the agreement, which was announced on September 11th in London, largely replicates the existing EU-Japan agreement, which will not apply no longer in the UK as of January 1st.
The text was presented by London as the means to increase trade with Japan by 15.2 billion pounds sterling (16.8 billion euros at the current rate). The agreement will enter into force on January 1, to coincide with the end of the transition period with the European Union after Brexit, which started on January 31st, 2020.
The UK and the EU resumed difficult negotiations on their future trade relations on Thursday after a week of paralysis. Both sides need to avoid economic chaos at the end of the year, when major sticking points remain.
The Japanese-British agreement was signed in a brief ceremony attended by British Minister for International Trade Liz Truss and Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi. The Japanese parliament will still have to ratify the agreement by the end of the year for it to enter into force.
Trade between the UK and Japan was worth more than £ 30 billion last year, the UK government said. However, this is very little compared to trade between London and the EU (nearly 700 billion pounds in 2019).
In a press release published ahead of the signing, London did not fail to underline the advantages of the agreement with Tokyo over past arrangements with the EU, clearly for domestic policy purposes. “Shaped by Britain”, it goes “beyond the agreement with the EU” and guarantees “tailor-made benefits to British citizens and businessmen”, according to the statement.
It also secures major gains “which would be impossible with membership in the EU,” London insisted. Finally, it paves the way for the UK to “closer ties” with 11 Pacific countries under the Trans-Pacific Trade Treaty (CPTPP).