Liz Truss – 2020 Statement on Trade with Japan

The statement made by Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for International Trade, in the House of Commons on 14 September 2020.

I am delighted to announce that last Friday we reached agreement in principle on a free trade deal with Japan. The UK-Japan comprehensive economic partnership agreement is a major moment in our national history. It shows that economic powerhouses, such as Japan, want ambitious deals with the United Kingdom, and it shows that the UK can succeed as an independent trading nation. It shows that we can strike deals that go further and faster than the EU—British-shaped deals that suit our economy.

This deal will drive economic growth and help level up our United Kingdom. On tech, it goes far beyond the EU-Japan deal, banning data localisation and providing for the free flow of data and net neutrality, benefiting our leading tech firms. In services, we have secured improved market access for financial services and better business mobility arrangements for professionals and their families. On food and drink, up to 70 of our brilliant British products can now be recognised in Japan, from Welsh lamb to Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese, English sparkling wine and Stornoway black pudding. Under the EU deal, that was limited to just seven. We have also secured tariff reductions on British goods from biscuits to pork, as well as continued access for malt and Stilton cheese.

In manufacturing, lower tariffs on parts and improved regulatory arrangements will benefit major employers such as Nissan and Hitachi in the north-east. The deal strengthens our ties with the world’s third-largest economy and deepens the bond between two like-minded island nations who believe in free and fair trade.

One of our greatest Prime Ministers, Mrs Thatcher, saw the value of co-operating with Japan in areas such as the automotive sector and electronics in the 1980s, which attracted the likes of Nissan and Toyota to our shores and delivered lasting benefits. Now, in 2020, we will unleash a new era of mutually beneficial economic co-operation with our great friend Japan, pushing new frontiers in areas such as tech and services trade. Japan, as one of the world’s major economies, is a vital partner for the UK and one of the most significant nations in the Pacific region. Securing this Japan deal is a key stepping stone towards joining the trans-Pacific partnership, which is one of the world’s largest free trade areas, covering 13% of the global economy and £110 billion-worth of trade. Accession is vital to our future interests. It will put us in a stronger position to reshape global rules alongside like-minded allies. It will hitch us to one of the fastest growing parts of the world. It will strengthen the global consensus for free trade at a time of global uncertainty and creeping protectionism. Japan, alongside this agreement, has given its strong commitment for UK accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, and last week I co-chaired a chief negotiators’ meeting of all 11 TPP countries—the first time that a non-member state has been asked to do this—where we discussed the path to UK membership. As negotiations progress, we will bring forward the formal application process to Parliament, and ensure that it is scrutinised openly and transparently.

As I have promised, there will be a full scrutiny process for the Japan deal and all the other agreements that we strike. Prior to entering negotiations, we issued a scoping assessment and published our objectives. During the negotiations, we have engaged extensively with business and stakeholders, including sharing sensitive tariff and market access information with our new trade advisory groups. We have established a Trade and Agriculture Commission to put our farmers at the heart of trade policy and ensure that their interests are advanced. When it is complete, I will be issuing a copy of the final deal to the International Trade Committee for scrutiny. We will also produce an independently scrutinised impact assessment, covering social, labour, environmental and animal welfare aspects of the agreement so that parliamentarians are able to interrogate the deal and prepare a report that is debated in Parliament. Ultimately, Parliament will decide whether to ratify the deal through the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act process or to withhold its support.

I am strongly of the view that this is a great deal for Britain. It benefits all parts of our country while protecting our red lines on areas such as the NHS and food standards. The agreement that we lay before Parliament will be the first of many, because there is a huge appetite to do business with global Britain and a huge opportunity for every part of this country to benefit from these agreements. This deal is a sign and a signal that we are back as an independent trading nation, back as a major force in global trade and back as a country that stands up for free enterprise across the world. This is just the start for global Britain.