The UK has completed its first large post-Brexit trade deal after signing an agreement with Japan that will take effect from January 1.
Liz Truss, the UK’s international trade secretary, signed the agreement with Toshimitsu Motegi, the Japanese foreign minister, in Tokyo on Friday morning.
The pact, negotiated in just a few months over the summer, will be seen by the UK government an important demonstration of its ability to reach its own trade deals outside the EU.
The new deal largely replicates the existing EU-Japan deal, but has an extra chapter on digital trade and lacks the quotas for agricultural exports such as cheese that Brussels wrested from Tokyo during years of talks.
Instead, the deal allows the UK to use any agricultural quotas left over by the EU. British officials are confident there will be enough space in the quotas to maintain and increase the UK’s food exports to Japan.
The UK was keen to strike an early deal, as it continues negotiations with Brussels on post-Brexit trade. Japan regards the UK as a strategic ally, creating the momentum for a quick agreement.
Both sides regard the agreement as a potential stepping stone to UK membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional pact that includes Australia, New Zealand and Canada as well as Vietnam, Malaysia and other countries around the Pacific Rim.
Negotiations for UK membership of TPP would allow for further trade liberalisation between London and Tokyo, potentially going deeper than the EU-Japan deal.