Breakthrough on cheese tariffs raises hopes of Japan trade deal
A BREAKTHROUGH on cheese tariffs has given new hope that a UK-Japan trade deal – at least in principle – will be reached this week.
Liz Truss, the Trade Secretary, spoke to Toshimitsu Motegi, the Japanese foreign minister, on Wednesday, agreeing most of the core elements of a deal. They are expected to hold a joint video press conference today.
A potential deal holds particular significance post-Brexit because it would be the first Britain has negotiated independently of the EU in 47 years.
While agriculture is an 11th-hour stumbling block in most trade negotiations between any nations, expectations that a deal would be reached during Mr Motegi’s two-day visit to London this month were dashed by reports that the two sides had failed to reach a settlement on tariffs on exports of blue cheese to Japan.
The compromise is set to be that import tariffs on British blue cheese will remain the same as in the existing EUJapan agreement but suppliers will be refunded later if the total import amount at the end of the year is below an agreed level, the Nikkei Asian Review reported.
UK negotiators had tried to have the tariffs eliminated completely to show that Britain was capable of reaching a better trade deal alone. Another stumbling block had been tariffs on Japanese automotive exports, which are expected to be reduced incrementally as per the EU-Japan agreement.
Some tariffs on components for cars and railways will be fully removed, benefiting Japanese manufacturers.
On digital services, there will be less government involvement than under the EU-Japan agreement, with neither side allowed to require companies to disclose information about algorithms and cryptography.
Ms Truss has insisted that she will not be “bounced into a deal” with Japan that did not meet Britain’s ambitions, refusing to commit to a deadline.