would welcome Britain to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal “with
open arms”, said prime minister Shinzo Abe, as he urged compromise to
avoid a no-deal Brexit.
Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times at his official
residence in Tokyo, Mr Abe said Britain would lose its role as a gateway
to Europe after Brexit but would still be a country “equipped with
The TPP is a wide-ranging trade agreement between 11 Pacific countries,
including Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico and Australia. It
originally included the US, but withdrawal was one of Donald Trump’s
first acts as president.
Joining would be a way for Britain to strike new free trade deals with a
large and fast-growing chunk of the world economy. However, it would be
possible only if Britain left the EU’s customs union and gained the
power to set its own tariffs.
Manufacturers such as Toyota and Nissan helped to revive the UK economy
in the 1980s by using it as their base in Europe. But they have grown
frustrated by the lack of clarity on Brexit. Several banks are shifting
operations to the EU, while Panasonic has cited Brexit as a reason for
moving its European headquarters from the UK to the Netherlands. “I
truly hope that the negative impact of Brexit to the global economy,
including Japanese businesses, will be minimised,” Mr Abe said.
He also hailed a “very fruitful” summit with Mr Trump 12 days ago, where
the two men agreed to negotiate a new trade agreement on goods.
Mr Abe said the US had promised not to increase car tariffs while the
talks were in progress, nor ask for greater agricultural access than
Japan has given in other trade deals. But in a sign of Japan’s
vulnerability, Mr Abe conceded he was not asking the US for reciprocal
tariff reductions. “I don’t feel there are excessive tariffs on so many
sectors when it comes to trade between Japan and the US,” he said.
The Japanese prime minister has gone to extreme lengths to cultivate Mr
Trump — meeting him nine times and holding 26 phone calls — because the
US alliance is so fundamental to Japan’s security. Mr Abe said he
opposed any withdrawal of US forces from the Korean peninsula as part of
a deal to scrap North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
“It is my understanding that there is no such idea in the minds of the
USside nor in the mind of President Trump,” he said. “The presence of US
forces in Korea is, I believe, a very important element for the peace
and stability of east Asia.”