Tuesday 11 August 2020 9:58 am

UK-Japan trade deal talks stall over Stilton cheese

Trade deal talks between the UK and Japan have been held up, after trade secretary Liz Truss tried to sneak Stilton cheese into negotiations.

It was reported just two weeks ago that a trade deal between the two nations was on the verge of being completed, however Truss has reportedly held things up by looking for a better deal for the UK’s agricultural exports.

Among the most important of these is reported to be the UK’s cheese exports.

The FT reports that Truss’ motivation behind including Stilton cheese in the deal is to secure a better Japanese free trade deal for Britons than the EU managed.

The EU agreed to a deal with Japan in 2018, which saw Japan reduce or scrap tariffs on European products such as cheese and wine, while the EU removed duties on Japanese cars.

The UK exported £18m worth of blue cheese, mostly Stilton, last year, however just £102,000 went to Japanese companies.

Truss’ efforts to include cheese in the trade deal comes six years after she became a viral hit in some circles with a speech about UK agricultural exports, such as cheese and apples.

She said at the time that the amount of cheese the UK imported was “a disgrace”.

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Commenting on the latest reports, Truss said: “Negotiations have been positive and productive, and we have reached consensus on the major elements of a deal – including ambitious provisions in areas like digital, data and financial services that go significantly beyond the EU-Japan deal. Our shared aim is to reach a formal agreement in principle by the end of August.”

Tokyo’s chief negotiator Hiroshi Matsuura told the Financial Times on 23 June that he wanted to wrap a trade deal up in six weeks and that both parties would have to “limit their ambitions”.

The framework of the deal is based off the EU-Japan deal struck last year, but with a further reduction or elimination of Japanese tariffs on British goods.

There is also expected to be increased access to Japanese markets for British companies.

City A.M. revealed in May that a UK-Japan free trade deal could provide a £383m boost to London’s economy every year.