Theresa May says Britain should be a leader in free trade as she moots deals with five G20 nations

Mark Sands
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2016 G20 State Leaders Hangzhou Summit
May is in China for the G20 summit, and will return to Britain later this week (Source: Getty)

Theresa May has said leaders of five G20 nations have expressed willingness to explore free trade deals with the UK in the aftermath of Brexit, although none of the nations are among the UK's top trading partners.

May said the leaders of South Korea, Mexico, Singapore and India had all expressed a desire for talks to lift trade barriers between their nations.

It follows comments from Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who said that his government was keen to rapidly secure free-trade with the UK.

May also revealed an Australian trade minister would be visiting the UK this week to begin exploring the possibility of a trade deal between the two nations.

And she added that she had also spoken to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after his government issued a memo of demands from Japanese firms, with potential departures to the EU threatened.

"We will be working together to ensure that we can maintain and build on our relationship," May said, adding that Japanese firm Softbank had already expressed a vote of confidence in the UK through its £24bn deal for Arm Holdings.

"I'm confident, and others are confident, about the relationships that we can build with them," she said.

However, it comes after US president Barack Obama warned that his country is prioritising talks with Asia and Europe.

The US imports more British goods than any other country, representing just under 15 per cent of total UK exports in 2015, and of the five nations mooted for a future deal by May, none were in the top 10 UK export markets in 2015.

According to ONS figures, Singapore and Australia ranked as the UK's 15th and 16th largest export markets last year, respectively, while India was 19th. Collectively, they accounted for just 4.4 per cent of exports.

The Prime Minister is set to meet Chinese Premier Xi Jinping later today, but denied that the issue of the UK's approval for the Hinkley Point nuclear reactors would hang over the meeting.

"A decision about Hinkley will be taken later this month, but our relationship with China is about more than Hinkley," she said.

"We have built a global strategic relationship with China."

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