A Japanese government official signalled Tokyo’s desire to make progress on the bilateral trade deal before a change in its government. Trade Secretary Liz Truss is hoping to secure a trade deal with Japan, which would go further than the existing agreement with the Brussels bloc- the UK’s first trade deal after more than 40 years following its departure from the EU.
Japan’s ruling party will choose a new leader next week to take over from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has decided to step down for health reasons.
His successor will become the next premier and form a new cabinet.
The official said political changes, which could lead to a new foreign minister succeeding incumbent Toshimitsu Motegi, heighten the need for the two countries to speed up trade talks.
The official said: “We want to reach a broad agreement on trade talks with Britain this week under Foreign Minister Motegi,” a view echoed by another government official.
Another official added: “Otherwise, a trade pact between Japan and Britain may not come into force January 1 next year considering Japan’s political situation.”
Britain, which left the EU in January, is seeking to clinch a trade agreement with Japan based on the 2019 EU-Japan agreement by the end of the year, when Britain’s no-change transition arrangement with the Brussels bloc will expire.
The official said if Japan and the UK clinch a deal, that would have a positive effect on Britain’s other trade talks.
He said: “For both the Japanese and British economies, we should avoid trade negotiations ‘drifting’ without a broad agreement this week.”
But the outcome is uncertain as the two nations had earlier aimed to clinch a trade deal by now.
Japan and UK trade bosses have been working towards an “ambitious” timeline during the COVID-19 crisis.
The agreement will be based on the current EU-Japan free trade agreement (FTA) but the Government hopes to secure additional benefits, namely in digital and data.
But trade talks came to a halt after Ms Truss insisted British food be part of the deal, with particular emphasis on Stilton cheese.
She hoped a “win” on Stilton will send a message to the world the UK is able to secure better trade agreements than those by the EU.
But Japan was keen to stick with quotas arrangements agreed with Brussels when it comes to a trade deal with the UK, accordion to the Nikkei Asian Review.
London is also in trade talks with the EU, which told Britain on Monday there would be no trade deal if it tried to tinker with the Brexit divorce treaty, raising the prospect of a tumultuous end-of-year finale to the saga.