• Bloomberg


The U.K. and South Korea are set to begin regular trade talks, with luxury brands a particularly promising topic, as Britain prepares to expand its commercial reach once it has left the European Union.

A formal working group of ministers from the two countries will meet as many as four times a year to discuss removing barriers to commerce and prospects for “future, ambitious trade opportunities” after the U.K. exits the EU, the British government said in an statement on Sunday.

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to make the U.K. a leader in liberalizing trade around the world after Brexit. Yet Britain is unable to strike its own free-trade deals — or even being formal negotiations — while still a member of the EU.

“We want to take advantage of all the opportunities available to us to ensure that Britain becomes a global leader in free trade,” U.K. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said in an e-mailed statement. “The agreement of this latest trade dialogue shows that government is preparing for Brexit, not prevaricating.”

The pending talks with South Korea follow similar dialogues the U.K. has opened with Australia, China, the Gulf Cooperation Council, India, New Zealand and Norway in the six months since voters chose in a referendum to leave the EU. Trade and investment between the U.K. and South Korea is worth about £10.9 billion ($13.6 billion) a year, according to British estimates. The U.K. is the fifth-largest foreign direct investor in South Korea.

The U.K. government said in its statement that South Korea is an especially promising market for luxury brands such as Burberry Group Plc, which has 70 stores in the country, and high-end automakers Jaguar Land Rover and Bentley. Other sectors with strong potential include renewable energy and nuclear decommissioning.

“What we’re doing is putting in place plans to ensure the U.K. remains open for business and trade links continue to strengthen,” Fox said. “Important like-minded free trading partners like Korea and others are telling us they’ve heard that message loud and clear. Korea itself is a prime example to the world of how free and open trade can lift countries out of poverty to prosperity.”

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