Trade deal with Japan sets ‘unwelcome precedent’ as Scotland gets little input

A new trade deal between the UK and Japan sets an “unwelcome precedent”, Scottish Government ministers warned, as they complained that the devolved administrations had little input.

Saturday, 12th September 2020, 7:30 am
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss speaking to Japan's Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi as the UK secures a free trade agreement with Japan

Holyrood trade minister Ivan McKee said the Scottish Government needs to “examine the fine print” of the new agreement to ensure it is in the country’s interests.

His comments came after International Trade Secretary Liz Truss confirmed the deal, which could boost trade by an estimated £15 billion.

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With the UK now having reached its first major post-Brexit trade deal, the Cabinet minister hailed it as a “historic moment”.

The UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was agreed in principle by Ms Truss and Japan’s foreign minister, Motegi Toshimitsu, in 
a video call yesterday morning.

Negotiations began in June – with most talks happening remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A final text of the agreement is likely to be published in October, but the UK government said that under its terms almost all exports to Japan (99 per cent) would benefit from tariff-free trade.

There will also be more ­protection for goods with ­geographical indications – including Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese and Welsh lamb.

Tokyo has also guaranteed market access for UK malt exports under a more generous quota than that with the European Union, as well as tariff reductions for UK pork, beef and salmon exports.

Scotland Office minister David Duguid said: “It’s great news that the UK government has agreed a trade deal with Japan.

“This will be a real boost for businesses in Scotland. Last year, businesses in Scotland exported goods worth more than £503 million to Japan.

“Scotland’s world-famous products, including Scottish wild salmon, Scotch beef and lamb – and of course Scotch whisky – are set to get a significant export boost from this agreement.”

Mr Duguid added that the deal is “further evidence of the huge opportunities of Britain leaving the EU”.

But Mr McKee said: “The fact that the UK government is having to spend so much time and energy trying to replicate the advantages of EU membership underlines what ­Scotland has lost by being taken out of the EU against its will.”

He also said that, despite “repeated requests to the UK government, there has been a lack of comprehensive engagement with ourselves and the other devolved administrations during the negotiation of this deal”.

As a result, he added: “We will need to examine the fine print to ensure that it meets the needs of Scottish companies and protects our interests.”

He said that Scottish ministers are “obviously pleased that Scottish brands with ­geographical indications (GIs) already protected in Japan – Scottish farmed salmon and Scotch whisky – are set to remain protected” under the deal.

But he stated: “As this was the UK government’s first major trade negotiation since leaving the EU, it sets an unwelcome precedent for future deals.”

The government said the deal brings benefits beyond the EU-Japan trade deal, giving UK companies exporting to Japan a competitive advantage.

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