Japanese foreign minister due in Britain for ‘difficult’ trade talks

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is going to visit the UK this week to hold difficult talks as the two countries attempt to conclude a trade deal after Brexit.

FILE PHOTO: Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi delivers his speech on January 10, 2020 at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia. REUTERS / Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

Approximately 1,000 Japanese companies are based in the UK, including major automakers, and Tokyo wants an early deal before the Brexit transition period and the current trade agreement with the EU framework to expire later this year.

Motegi's August 5-7 visit to face-to-face talks with British Secretary of Commerce Liz Truss will be the first overseas visit by a Japanese government minister since the coronavirus pandemic began, he said.

"Difficult negotiations like this, where national interest is at stake, cannot be conducted over the phone," he said at a press conference.

"… I'm afraid the negotiations will take many hours, but I want to find a middle ground and reach an agreement."

The smooth continuation of bilateral business is essential, he added.

If trade tariffs rose, "it would be an enormous burden for Japanese companies to continue operating in the UK," said a Japanese foreign minister

"That's why we're speeding up negotiations."

Motegi, who was asked about the postponement of the Hong Kong government's parliamentary elections, said he had "serious concerns" about the matter.

"It is important for Hong Kong to develop in a democratic and stable manner while maintaining its free and open structure based on the principle of" one country, two systems "," he said.

"… An immediate free and fair choice is an important basis for this. Japan wants to keep an eye on the situation … and work closely with other affected countries. "

Hong Kong chairwoman Carrie Lam on Friday postponed the Chinese-ruled city's legislature on September 6 by one year, citing the coronavirus public health risk.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Edited by Robert Birsel and John Stonestreet

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