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UK to start post-Brexit trade talks with Japan

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G7 Summit.

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Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Shinzo Abe at the 2019 G7 Summit

The UK and Japan are set to begin talks on Tuesday aimed at reaching agreement on a post-Brexit trade deal.

The negotiations come as London and Tokyo work towards replacing the agreement Britain currently has with Japan through the European Union.

Without a new deal by 1 January 2021 the two countries will default to World Trade Organization trading terms.

That would mean tariffs and obstacles to commerce between the UK and its fourth-largest non-EU trading partner.

After decades of sharing its trade policy with the European Union, Britain is now embarking on free trade negotiations with countries around the world.

Last month the UK launched formal talks with the United States and is also hoping to reach a trade agreement with the EU by the end of this year.

Discussions with Brussels have proved to be particularly difficult, with no agreement so far on even the basic structure of what will be negotiated.

Discussions with Japan will initially be held via video link and be between the UK’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs  Toshimitsu Motegi.

Ms Truss said that she hopes to build on the existing pact between Tokyo and Brussels: “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.”

“This deal will provide more opportunities for businesses and individuals across every region and nation of the UK and help boost our economies following the unprecedented economic challenges posed by coronavirus,” Ms Truss added.

According to British government figures, trade between the two countries totalled £31.4bn last year, with 9,500 UK-based businesses exporting goods to Japan.

The UK hopes that a free trade agreement with Japan will help it to eventually join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Membership of the 11-member CPTPP, a trade agreement that stretches from Australia to Chile, would significantly improve access for UK businesses to markets across the Asia-Pacific region.

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