UK and Switzerland, EU and Japan approve new trade deals

Legislation | 19 December 2018

The UK and Switzerland have come to a trade agreement, as have Japan and the European Union.


New trade deals have been agreed between Britain and Switzerland and Japan and the European Union, paving the way for renewed trade infrastructure post-Brexit.

The UK government and the Swiss Federal Council have now approved the first agreement of the transition of an existing trade partnership, boosting preparations to ensure continuity for businesses after Britain leaves the EU.

It will mean companies in the UK and Switzerland will be able to carry on trading freely after March 2019 and replicates the existing EU-Switzerland arrangements as far as possible.

The new deal will come into effect as soon as the implementation period ends in January 2021, or on March 29th 2019 should Britain leave the EU without a deal.

Both countries have now initialled the agreement and the text will serve as a basis for Swiss-UK relations going forward.

International trade secretary Dr Liam Fox commented: "This is one of the most significant existing trade agreements ... and it will provide the certainty that businesses need. It means that businesses and consumers can continue to benefit from our close trading relationships with the world beyond the European Union."

Currently, there are around 40 existing EU trade agreements that the UK government is attempting to negotiate continuity for, with Dr Fox saying that many are at an advanced stage and "close to being agreed".

Britain's biggest exports to Switzerland are jewellery, precious stones and metal, while pharmaceutical products also feature high on the list.

Now the agreement has been initialled, both countries will go on to seek parliamentary approval.

Elsewhere, Japan and the EU have approved a major free trade deal after the European Parliament voted in favour.

It will create a trading zone comprising 635 million people and a third of global GDP. For Japan, one of the biggest benefits is that it will make access easier for its car manufacturers wanting to break into the European market.

For European exporters, it means the majority of tariffs will be removed, while others - like those for agriculture - will be dramatically reduced.

The EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said: "Our economic partnership with Japan - the biggest trade zone ever negotiated - is now very close to becoming a reality. That's good news for the EU and all supporters of an open and fair international trading system."

After the Japanese parliament ratified the agreement on December 8th, the new deal will now come into effect on February 1st 2019.

For the UK, the future of trade with Japan remains uncertain, as Britain would no longer be covered by the 50 trade deals the EU has negotiated in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

However, the new agreement with Switzerland shows that other ways forward can be mapped out. Indeed, Japan has already said that it hopes to work with Britain to renegotiate deals after next year, as have other nations.

Japan's minister for public diplomacy and media Shinichi Iida told the Independent recently that once the Japan-EU partnership comes into force, "it could provide a very good and sound basis for the future trade between Japan and UK".

It will be interesting to see what other deals are agreed as the Brexit deadline approaches and we move into a world where Britain is outside the European bloc.