Business

Japan high on post-Brexit Britain's FTA priority list: new envoy

by Sophie Jackman

Kyodo

The close relationship between London and Tokyo will put Japan high on Britain’s list for negotiating new bilateral trade deals after it leaves the European Union, Britain’s new ambassador to Japan said Monday.

In an interview Paul Madden said a post-Brexit Britain will seek to forge new trade agreements “where we can perhaps go further than we’ve been able to go in the past.”

“I would see Japan as an important priority for that, given the size of our trade and investment relationship and the size of the Japanese economy,” he said.

While Britain cannot start formal negotiations on free trade deals with third parties while it remains a member of the European Union, Madden, 56, said there have already been “conversations” between Japan and Britain in which “we’ve talked about our aspirations.”

Concerns about the effects on Japanese firms and the broader world economy prompted the Japanese government to issue a 15-page message in September last year calling on Britain and the European Union to “disclose information on the status and future prospects of the Brexit negotiations in a regular and timely manner.”

Madden said that in any negotiation, “not all of the information is available at all times … but where we can provide certainty, we’re committed to doing that.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said last week the country will fully leave the single EU market for goods and services, seeking instead a comprehensive free trade agreement with the bloc.

Madden said it will be up to the two-year exit negotiation process, which May has said she wants to launch by the end of March, to determine how Britain might achieve its goals of tariff-free trade and frictionless borders with EU countries.

“We want continuing good relations with our European neighbors, we want our businesses to work well together and we think it’s in both of our interests for that to happen, and therefore it’s in the interest of other countries like Japan as well,” Madden said.

On security, Madden said he anticipates further bilateral cooperation, citing a groundbreaking joint fighter drill in Japan in November last year between Britain’s Royal Air Force and Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force as a “concrete symbol of how we’re going to be working more closely together.”

Since arriving in Japan two weeks ago, Madden has had brief talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. Before leaving for Japan, he spoke with Japanese firms doing business in Britain to hear their Brexit-related concerns.

Madden said he also looks forward to using his post to foster stronger ties on nuclear power technology and on building on the experiences of the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics to aid Tokyo’s hosting of the games in 2020.

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