The Prime Minister begins a new era of strengthening Britain’s ties and influence in Asia with an ambitious three-day trip to Japan.
The visit will build on the two nations’ strong history of friendship and cooperation as the UK seeks to cement its position as Japan’s strongest security partner in Europe, on Theresa May’s first visit to the country as Prime Minister.
With a trip involving three days spent in Kyoto and Tokyo, the Prime Minister will take part in a bilateral Summit and private dinner with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with both also addressing the UK-Japan Business Forum. She will say that the UK and Japan are perfect partners for the future, as both nations seek to build on their strong economic, trade, security and defence ties.
The trip builds on intense engagement by the UK Government with Japan in recent months, including inward visits from the Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and International Trade Secretary, as well as the Prime Minister’s hosting of Prime Minister Abe at Chequers recently.
Security and defence will form a significant part of this week’s talks, with the latest provocative North Korean missile test high on the agenda as the UK and Japan seek to step up their cooperation in these important areas. The Prime Minister is expected to say to Prime Minister Abe that the UK is outraged by North Korea’s reckless provocation and strongly condemns the regime’s illegal tests.
A future trading relationship will also be a central tenet throughout the visit. It comes at a crucial time as the UK continues to prepare for new bilateral trading relationships after Brexit, and Prime Minister May is expected to reiterate the UK’s commitment to a swift conclusion of the ambitious EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. She will also seek agreement from Prime Minister Abe that the UK and Japan should work to ensure it can form the basis of a bilateral arrangement quickly after Brexit.
The Prime Minister will be accompanied by the International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox and a delegation of 15 senior business leaders including representatives from Barclays, the Scotch Whisky Association and Aston Martin.
Japanese companies already invest more than £40 billion in the UK and over 1,000 Japanese companies, including Honda, Hitachi, Fujitsu and Sony, employ 140,000 people in the UK.
Flagship Japanese companies such as Nissan, Toyota and Softbank have already committed to a long-term post-Brexit presence in Britain.
Speaking ahead of the visit, the Prime Minister said:
“Building on our existing ties with friends and allies around the world is vital as Britain prepares for a new era outside the European Union.
“Japan has long been a natural trading partner for the UK as a like-minded nation with a shared belief in free trade and a rules-based international system, and my discussions with Prime Minister Abe will focus on how we can prepare the ground for an ambitious free trade agreement after Brexit, based on the EU-Japan agreement which I very much hope is nearing conclusion.
“As our closest security partner in Asia, we will also discuss how we can work much more closely together on cyber security, counter-terrorism and defence – more important than ever in this uncertain world.”
International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox said:
“Japan is one of the UK’s largest non-EU trading partners, and as an international economic department we are engaging with businesses on both sides to maximise commercial opportunities and ensure continuity in trade as we leave the EU. Our aim for this visit will be to strengthen our already strong bilateral relationship and lay the groundwork for a future trade agreement.
“The UK is Japan’s second most popular investment destination, and leading the business delegation is a key part of ensuring we are continuing to work closely with Japanese buyers to attract investment to the UK to create prosperity and jobs.”