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Brexit breakthrough: UK on track to secure landmark Japan trade deal this month

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TRADE negotiations between Japan and Britain might be concluded as early as July in what would be a groundbreaking step forward for the UK’s post-Brexit trading situation.

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Japan’s chief negotiator to Britain, Hiroshi Matsuura, said at the end of May that Japan wanted to clinch a deal as a matter of “highest priority”. He added that Japan’s demands would be based on the trade agreements that the nation already has with the EU.

But he added that in certain areas, Japan would like to take talks with the UK to an even higher level.

Digital trade would be one such area, while Reuters added that Japan would seek to get at least the same automobile tariffs as it currently gets with the EU.

Indeed, the vehicle industry is historically one of Japan’s most important.

In its trade deal with the EU, which came into effect last year, the EU agreed to remove tariffs of 10 percent on Japanese cars in eight years and remove them completely on the majority of vehicle parts.

Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed EU talks must be faster.

It should be noted, however, that even if a deal is achieved by this July, then any agreement would need to go through Japan’s legal system first.

That’s due to be held in the autumn, and is possibly why Japan is keen to get a deal penned as soon as possible.

The UK embarked on trade talks with Japan on Tuesday June 9.

The negotiations were kicked off by Liz Truss, UK International Trade Secretary, and Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Motegi Toshimitsu.

READ: Japan rushes to sign first comprehensive post-Brexit trade deal with UK

Automobiles will be a key focus for Japan.

In 2019, British trade with Japan was worth more than £30 billion and helped employ 2.4 million people in the UK, the government said.

Liz Truss said: “As we kick start trade talks, we aim to strike a comprehensive free trade agreement that goes further than the deal previously agreed with the EU, setting ambitious standards in areas such as digital trade and services.”

She added that beginning the talks marked “a historic moment in the long-standing friendship between the UK and Japan”.

Despite the news that a trade deal is hoped to close by next month, Bill Emmott, chairman of the Japan Society of the UK and former editor-in-chief of The Economist, told Express.co.uk in mid-June that there is “zero chance of a UK-Japan trade deal until the EU-UK trade arrangements have been agreed”.

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Japan’s foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi in 2019.

The UK is currently entering a period of intensified trade talks with the EU as both sides aim to get a post-Brexit agreement sorted before the end of the year.

Over the past couple of months talks have essentially been at an impasse due to both sides failing to agree on various issues including competition rules.

On Monday, face-to-face negotiations between the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier began.

It was the first time since the two officials had met in person since talks kicked off in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss kicked off the Japan talks on June 9.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen held a virtual meeting earlier this month, where both agreed that “new momentum” was needed to push the talks forward.

It’s hoped that a deal will be reached as soon as possible. Indeed, a No 10 spokesman said on Monday this week that the talks could not “go into the Autumn”, the BBC reports.

The current round of talks are due to continue throughout the week.

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