Japan will welcome the UK in the trans-pacific partnership with “open arms,” prime minister Shinzo Abe told the Financial Times on Tuesday.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was negotiated by President Barack Obama but President Donald Trump withdrew his support. TPP has 11-member states, including Commonwealth states, namely Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Malaysia, as well as key emerging economies such as Vietnam.
The Japanese prime minister noted that while the UK will lose its status as a gateway to Europe it would remain a country “equipped with global strength.”
His words bolster hardline opponents of an agreement with the EU that would entail a Customs Union, or even a prolonged “transition period” without a definite deadline of a neat break with the EU.
The UK can only join the TPP partnership if it signs a Canada or indeed Japan-style agreement with the EU. That is an argument consistently made by the UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who is advocating for a clean break with the EU. That would mean the UK leaving the Customs Union at the end of the transition period in December 2020.
Focusing on Brexit negotiations, Abe expressed concern over the prospect of a disorderly Brexit, as well as the wish for minimum disruption for the global economy and, naturally, Japanese business.
Japan is the world’s third-largest economy by nominal GDP and the fourth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). It is also a major investor in the UK, particularly in car manufacturing, electronics and the pharmaceutical industries, both of whom will be severely disrupted by Brexit. Abe urged for “wisdom” in the negotiations.
More than 800 Japanese companies employ more than 100,000 people in the UK, a legacy of the 1980s when Japan saw Britain as a launchpad for the European Union. Some are beginning to move out, including Panasonic, that is moving its headquarters to Amsterdam.