• Kyodo

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The top diplomats of Japan and Britain agreed Saturday to work quickly toward a bilateral trade deal that will be “at least as ambitious” as Japan’s agreement with the European Union.

In their first meeting since the United Kingdom formally withdrew from the European Union on Jan. 31, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, also said they were planning security talks.

“Preliminary discussions have begun in building a new bilateral economic partnership, and I hope we will be able to start and conclude negotiations as early as possible,” Motegi said at a joint news conference after the meeting in Tokyo.

Raab said the two discussed a deal that would be “at least as high standard, if not higher, and at least as ambitious” as the Japan-EU agreement that entered into force in February 2019.

This would “send a very powerful signal of our shared commitment to free and rules-based trade,” he added.

Motegi also expressed support for Britain’s interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-member free trade pact also involving Australia, Canada and Mexico.

Regarding security matters, the ministers agreed to continue working toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea and to continue enforcing U.N. sanctions on the country. They also exchanged views on heightened tensions in the Middle East, noting the importance of Iran remaining in a landmark 2015 deal that put limits on its nuclear program.

Motegi called Britain an “indispensable partner” in realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific, and said the two agreed to arrange a “two-plus-two” meeting along with their countries’ defense chiefs.

Raab was slated to meet with Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi later in the day.

Raab is on a four-country tour of the Asia-Pacific region, having already visited Australia and set to make stops in Singapore and Malaysia. The trip marks the start of a mission to ink trade deals with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.

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