Japan is seeking to minimise access to its market for UK food products in any post-Brexit trade deal, a leading expert has warned.
The UK has been trying to ‘roll over’ the trade deal it had with Japan already by virtue of its EU membership, which came into force in February last year, but has struggled due to Japan’s reluctance.
According to Sam Lowe, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, the major sticking point on the rollover was agriculture.
He said: “One of the reasons the Japanese were reluctant to roll over the existing EU-Japan free trade agreement is they have already opened up their agriculture sector massively over the last few years, through agreements with the EU and US, and also finalising the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
“If they had rolled it over, they would have been giving the UK additional access to Japan, on top of all it has already granted, for free. This would have caused problems domestically.
“Now, in the negotiation of a deal with the UK, Japan will be looking to limit further liberalisation of its agriculture sector.”
Mr Lowe’s comments came as the UK Government published details of its approach to negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with Japan.
The document singles out agriculture as a sector which is set to benefit from a UK-Japan deal, through a combination of ‘reduced tariffs and red tape’ for food and drink exports.
In value terms, UK food exports to Japan on a 2016-2018 average accounted for over 10 per cent of total exports to EU-FTA countries.
NFU Brexit and international trade director Nick von Westenholz said: “We hope there will be increased opportunities under a UK-Japan FTA for UK farmers to export more fantastic British food.
“Like any negotiations, these will be difficult and Japan will want concessions in return if they are to allow increased access for UK food.
“Ultimately, the UK Government must ensure the FTA secures a net gain for UK farmers.”