LONDON – The U.K. government said Friday it wanted to hear from businesses and members of the public about their priorities for a post-Brexit trade deal with Japan.
Japan is one of the U.K.’s biggest foreign investors, encouraged by successive British governments who have promised a business-friendly base from which to trade across Europe.
The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union has raised concern that Japanese firms will shift operations elsewhere if tariff-free trade ends with the rest of the European bloc.
The government said its “call for input” to help it prepare for post-Brexit trade negotiations with Japan would be open until Nov. 4, with anyone able to contribute online.
“Businesses should be reassured that there is huge political will on both sides to begin negotiating a new free trade agreement with Japan as soon as possible,” U.K. trade minister Liz Truss said in a statement during a visit to Tokyo.
“Launching our call for input today will allow us to begin these formal negotiations rapidly, and will give people throughout the U.K. the opportunity to have their say on the new agreement.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking to renegotiate the Brexit deal his predecessor Theresa May reached with the EU, but has vowed to take the U.K. out of the bloc at the end of October without an agreement if necessary.
Some of Japan’s leading companies in the U.K. have warned of the impact a disorderly exit from the EU could have on their businesses, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly urged the U.K. to avoid leaving without a deal.
Trade between the U.K. and Japan was worth £29.5 billion ($36.7 billion) last year, the U.K. government said, with nearly 1,000 Japanese firms based in the country employing more than 150,000 people.
Japanese carmakers Nissan, Toyota and Honda built roughly half of the just over 1.5 million cars produced in the U.K. last year.
Carmakers have warned that their factories, which rely on the continuous delivery of parts to enter production cycles, would be severely damaged if the U.K. leaves the EU without a trade deal, forcing the need for customs checks at borders.
In Tokyo on Friday, Truss was set to meet Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, trade minister Isshu Sugawara and Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.
The two countries will also sign an exchange of letters to ensure U.K. certificates and inspections related to technical regulations, currently covered by the EU-Japan Mutual Recognition Agreement, will continue to be recognized by Japan and vice versa.