Deal done! UK and Japan seal 'first independent trade deal' with jar of Stilton cheese

Fri 23 Oct 2020
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

japan trade deal

The UK and Japan today officially sealed the trade deal that was officially agreed in early September, reports the FT.

International trade minister Liz Truss sealed the deal with Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Motegi Toshimitsu in Tokyo this morning, at 3.30am GMT.

It is the first such independent trade deal the UK has signed in 47 years and a sign of future potential, Truss said.

“It used to be said that an independent UK would not be able to strike major trade deals or they would take years to conclude. But today we prove the naysayers wrong with this ground-breaking, British-shaped deal that was agreed in record time,” she said.

UK benefits

The main gains, as summarised by the IoE, are:

  • tariff free exports for 99% of British goods;
  • more beneficial rules of origin interpretation for UK manufacturers;
  • improved access for UK financial services, which account for 28% of UK exports to Japan
  • digital and data provisions “that go far beyond the EU-Japan deal” making it easier for UK companies to operate in Japan

Truss presented Toshimitsu with a jar of Stilton, reports Politico, as a nod to the greater access that the UK has negotiated for UK cheesemakers.

The Daily Telegraph noted the UK agreement "lacks the same quotas for agricultural exports such as cheese" achieved by the EU's deal with Japan. "Instead, it allows the UK to use any agricultural quotas left over by the EU," the Telegraph said.

Eastern promise

Although long-term economic boost from the deal only represents a 0.07% rise in GDP according to the UK government’s analysis, it is viewed as strategically important.

The Japan deal could smooth the way to UK membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional pact that includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia and other Pacific Rim nations.

EU talks resume

Just as Truss was heading to Tokyo to sign the deal, Michel Barnier arrived back in London yesterday for the resumption of UK-EU. He told reporters (including the BBC) that “every day counts”. 

Downing Street has warned that “significant gaps” remain, but the two negotiating teams are moving into “intensified talks” to bridge them.