TOKYO (AFP) – Britain hailed its first major post-Brexit trade deal yesterday after signing an agreement with Japan that it said shows it can stand alone on the global stage, as talks on a pact with the European Union (EU) remain bogged down.
London said the pact, which was agreed after just a few months of talks over the summer, would boost business between the two by GBP15.2 billion (USD19.5 billion) and proved others could be signed elsewhere.
The deal comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson pursues his “Global Britain” strategy that seeks potentially more advantageous trade deals than those that were negotiated while it was an EU member.
The United Kingdom (UK)-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement covers sectors including food, textiles and technology and largely replicates the existing EU-Japan arrangement, which will no longer apply to Britain at the end of this year.
It is due to take effect on January 1 – the end of a transition period in which London and Brussels are trying to thrash out the terms of their own new relationship.
British-Japanese trade was worth around GBP30 billion last year, while Britain’s imports and exports to the EU, its biggest trading partner, totalled USD670 billion.
After the signing ceremony in Tokyo, Britain’s International Trade Minister Liz Truss said, “It used to be said that an independent UK would not be able to strike independent trade deals, or they would take years to conclude. But today we prove the naysayers wrong.”
Truss also said the deal “paves the way” for Britain to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership between 11 countries including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam and Australia.
But joining is likely to be a complex manoeuvre that will take years.
Long-running post-Brexit talks with the EU resumed on Thursday after Britain ended a week of threats to abandon them.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier arrived in London vowing to work around the clock to salvage a trade deal and avert potential economic chaos at the end of the year – although key sticking points still remain.