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Interview with British trade minister on Japan-UK EPA, CPTPP membership

  • September 15, 2020
  • , Nikkei , p. 11
  • JMH Translation
  • ,

By Yusuke Nakajima


LONDON –  Britain’s International Trade Secretary Elizabeth Truss noted in a written interview with the Nikkei that the UK government will hold unofficial consultations with the member states of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which it seeks to join as the next step, now that Japan and the UK governments have reached a basic agreement on a bilateral economic partnership agreement.


Below are excerpts of the interview.


Q: What is the significance of the recent agreement?


Secretary Truss: The agreement [conclude on Sept. 11] includes cutting-edge provisions on digital and data fields and produced results beyond the economic partnership agreement between Japan and the European Union. Our agreement will serve as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region and an important step toward joining the CPTPP, one of the world’s largest free trade agreements.


Q: How is CPTPP membership progressing? When will you apply for membership?


Secretary Truss: We have recently met with the chief negotiators of the 11 nations regarding Britain’s membership. We will continue to hold high-level discussions with them. The process is important as we need to develop informal ties with all 11 members and address each other’s concerns and questions.


Our accession to the CPTPP means that we will be able to send a strong signal that Britain upholds free trade and fights against protectionism together with countries like Japan. We will officially apply for membership after we make headway in informal consultations and we can be sure that we will be able to carry out negotiations along the lines of our national interests.


Q: Recently, Britain has encountered difficulty in negotiating an FTA with the EU. With regards to negotiations with the U.S., it has also become difficult to reach an agreement before the presidential election.


Secretary Truss: We have completed eight rounds of FTA negotiations with the EU (as of Sept. 10), and we have promised to work hard to reach an agreement. Our negotiations with the U.S. are forward-looking and constructive. We are surely moving forward in the direction of a comprehensive agreement.


Q: What was the hardest part in trade negotiations with Japan? It appears that you ran into the difficulties in ironing out differences in cheese and farm produce.


Secretary Truss: Farm produce was one sector that we needed to address. In the end, we were able to reach an agreement that will benefit exporters as well as consumers of farm produce. Due to the pandemic, we could not hold in-person negotiations. I believe that ours were the world’s first trade negotiations carried out entirely online. Never before has a basic agreement been reached so quickly. (Abridged)

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