Interesting comment from Brussels based trade lawyer and economist Hosuk Lee-Makiyama on any future Japan-UK trade negotiations, in oral evidence to the Treasure Committee on the future of the UK’s economic relationship with the European Union (July 13th 2016):
“Japan is quite an exception from this [the UK having interests that are sensitive to the counterpart country], because the outstanding issues in the EU-Japan negotiations are basically products where Europe is asking for TPP-plus concessions. Europe would like to have more from Japan than what Japan has given to the United States, Australia and New Zealand, because our offensive interest in agriculture towards the Japanese consumer market is different from the ones for the United States. The United States is interested in exporting rice, made in California, to Japan. We do not export rice. Our interests are primarily in dairy, high-quality cheeses and wines, pasta, certain types of meat. It is not an offensive interest of the UK. We could probably sign a deal with Japan tomorrow. However, the question is whether Japan would be interested in doing so, because if you look at the Japanese firms—and this applies to not only Japan but most of the third country economies— they have invested in the UK after 1973 on a specific guarantee that the UK will be a part of the single market. I am not really sure that the rationale exists, although the defensive interests are less.”
Confirms my previous posts that 1) agricultural trade is hugely sensitive for Japan (and in that respect, the UK has less to worry about in negotiations with Japan) 2) What’s important to UK-Japan economic relations is the direct investment that has been made by Japanese companies into the UK over the past 40 years on the premise that the UK was part of the Single Market, not “offensive vs defensive” mercantilist bilateral dealing in modern day counterparts of silk, wool and tea.
I saw Dominic Raab, pro Brexit Tory MP, claiming in the Times that the UK could offer Japan a better deal to export Mazdas to the UK outside the EU because they could be tariff-free rather than the current 10% the EU imposes on cars. It’s telling that he chose Mazda of course, because it is the only Top 5 Japanese car company that does not have a factory in the European Union or Turkey (which is inside the EU customs union). So as a bargaining chip, tariff free cars does not really present much of an incentive to Japan to open up its public procurement, or reduce non-tariff trade barriers such as pharmaceuticals regulations, in return.
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