The UK’s Ambassador to the WTO and UN in Geneva, Simon Manley, delivered this statement at the 15th WTO Trade Policy Review of Japan on 1 March 2023.

Simon Manley CMG

Madam Chair, thank you for leading this important scrutiny of one of the WTO’s biggest economies. In this new era of UK-EU cooperation let me also thank João for setting up our discussion today with such wisdom and linguistic skill. And let me also warmly welcome Japan’s delegation to their Trade Policy Review today, led by Deputy Assistant Minister Okochi.

Madam Chair, our nations enjoy deep historical ties going back centuries and Japan is now one of Britain’s closest partners in Asia. Indulge me a moment, as a lapsed historian, to take stock of the progress we have made together since English seafarers established first trading stations at Hirado Island in the 17th Century.

Today, Japan is a key partner with whom we share a vibrant bilateral trading relationship. Decades of partnership in automotive and electronics manufacturing, IT, energy, life sciences and financial services have provided the foundations for a dramatic expansion of industrial ties. From 2012 to 2020, Japanese Foreign Direct Investment in the UK almost tripled. In 2021, Nissan chose the great city of Sunderland as its flagship global EV Hub, investing £1bn in EV manufacturing and a gigafactory. Japanese firms contribute to the UK’s leading position in offshore wind. A Marubeni consortium is developing one of the world’s largest floating offshore wind farms in Scotland. From large tech to pharma to megabanks, there are now around a thousand Japanese companies operating in the UK.

Our association is deep and wide-ranging, underpinned by our bilateral FTA, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which came into force last year, further updating our collaborative and reciprocal relationship for the 2020s and beyond. The UK and Japan have also shown ambition in areas dear to the heart of the DG and vital to supporting trade like digital, on which we launched our Digital Partnership, in December 2022.

When our two Prime Ministers met at the Tower of London on 11 January, Prime Minister Sunak spoke of “an unbreakable bond that reaches halfway around the world”. And that’s why, recognising that our security is shared and indivisible, they signed a landmark deal on military cooperation – the Reciprocal Access Agreement.

And we hope that our membership of CPTPP will further elevate the ties between the UK and its Pacific partners, including Japan, to a new level. We are grateful to Japan for their support to the UK in that process and hope that this will not only promote trade and investment between our two great nations, but also demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the Indo-Pacific region as a whole.

Madam Chair, we commend Prime Minister Kishida’s agenda of driving the transformation of Japan’s economy by digitisation and investments in green technology and human capital. And we encourage Japan to match its high ambition with corresponding actions. As identified in our Advance Written Questions, there are several strategic areas where we would like to collaborate even more closely with Japan. Some of these are global issues, like decarbonisation and digitalisation, where all countries need to do more. But to realise ambitions in this area, we must focus on ensuring that businesses can make the most of these opportunities, by tackling the practical challenges that they still face: streamlining bureaucratic processes is a key example of this. Across the piece, we hope the UK can provide valuable expertise and support, and we look forward to continuing to work with Japan on realising these mutual opportunities.

Chair, we are glad to see that maintaining and strengthening the multilateral trading system is a key pillar of Japan’s trade policy. And I pay tribute to the wise guidance that Ambassador Yamazaki provides to his team in this House. Plurilateralism has brought much-needed energy and dynamism to this organisation. We are grateful for Japan’s cooperation in plurilateral initiatives, in particular as one of the co-convenors for the E-Commerce JI, which will deliver modern global rules on digital trade that are fit for purpose in the 2020s and support the digital economy. This is a top priority for the UK and we look forward to working with Japan to conclude substantive negotiations in 2023. We also appreciate Japan’s efforts to launch certification requests for the Services Domestic Regulation JI last December 2022.

We wholeheartedly agree with Minister Nishimura’s assessment in his speech to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies that we must never allow ourselves to fall into protectionism and using industrial subsidies to compete against one another. Our countries support a robust and effective multilateral trading system, crucial to the future functioning of the international order, and we must ensure our industrial policies do not disrupt these important trade links. The UK will support Japan in holding high the banner of free trade.

We therefore welcome Japan’s focus under their G7 presidency on global economic recovery, strengthening economic security, and improving cooperation with the Global South. In the past year we have stood side by side with Japan and all G7 partners in supporting Ukraine against President Putin’s unprovoked aggression, and we will continue to stand together for Ukraine’s freedom, for international law, and our rules based multilateral trading system.

We are pleased that the G7 Trade Track is now in its 3rd year, an initiative pioneered under our own 2021 Presidency. We will support Japan to achieve practical outcomes particularly in the development of a comprehensive package on economic security that will help create a more resilient global trading system in the interests of all WTO Members.

Chair, to conclude, as the annual cherry blossom viewing season approaches, we wish Japan a similarly serene review and a florescence of success in their strategic trade programme, with the UK as a close partner.

And, in the spirit of a belated Trade Valentines, permit me to close with a short verse of optimism in the best of Japanese tradition:

Trade friendship blossoms,

Rooted in our shared values,

Garden of Progress.

Thank you, Chair.

Published 1 March 2023