UK ministers in global drive for new trade deals

Both Boris Johnson and Liam Fox are in simultaneous talks with countries around the world including the US, New Zealand and Japan, to discuss future post-Brexit bilateral trade deals.

The UK is restarting its trade connections with other countries around the world
Two of the UK government's most senior cabinet ministers are criss-crossing the globe this week in a concerted effort to lay the groundwork for trade deals to come into effect after Britain leaves the European Union.

Boris Johnson travels to New Zealand

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has visited New Zealand – after a three-day visit to Japan and before flying on the Australia – while International Trade Secretary Liam Fox headed to Washington for two days of talks with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer for two days of talks at the first UK-US Trade and Investment Working Group, before heading to Mexico.EU rules mean the UK cannot enter into trade deals until after it has left the bloc in 2019, but the government in London is determined to complete discussions before then, to pave the way for potential future agreements.After saying at the end of his trip to Tokyo that Japan was poised for an "all-singing, all-dancing" post-Brexit free trade deal with the UK, Mr Johnson said in Wellington that New Zealand was "at or near the very front of the queue" for another free trade deal with the UK.Mr Johnson said he had been discussing the prospect of a "great" bilateral trade deal with New Zealand government members."I can certainly tell you that New Zealand is at or near the very front of the queue," he said. "We want to engage with the world in a way we haven't been able to do for 43 years. And we want to engage above all with our old friends and partners like New Zealand."
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Prime Minister Bill English met with Mr Johnson and, before the meeting, said he expected a "wide-ranging and interesting" discussion as both countries had a strong interest in a trade deal."We aren't as economically significant as other (countries), but we're easier to deal with. If the UK needs to be able to establish early its ability to do free trade agreements, then New Zealand is a candidate for that," he said.Mr English said he would also raise the government's "on-going interest" in improving New Zealanders' rights to live and work in Britain.Mr Johnson subsequently suggested the UK would "look at" introducing some sort of special visa for Commonwealth countries."I don't want to over-promise at this stage, but clearly it's our ambition to attract people of talent," he said. "We want to establish a regime for New Zealand that is as free and as open as we can possibly make it."There are lots of young New Zealanders who want to come to the UK for their OE (overseas experience) and that's a great thing – we're trying to make sure that happens as smoothly as possible."Mr Johnson's comments were in line with a report he launched in 2014 – when he was mayor of London – calling for the creation of a mobility zone between New Zealand, Australia and Britain.

Liam Fox’s visit the US

Meanwhile, in Washington, Mr Fox said the first meeting of the UK-US Trade and Investment Working Group represented "the start of the next chapter in our special relationship".He added, "Although it's too early to say exactly what would be covered in a potential deal, the working group is the means to ensure we get to know each other's issues and identify areas where we can work together to strengthen trade and investment ties."Our work as an international economic department has never been more important and our exit from the European Union offers an unprecedented opportunity to reshape our independent trading ambitions and build on the already strong trading relationship with our single largest trading partner – the US".In addition to discussions with Mr Lighthizer, Mr Fox will hold talks with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, give a speech at the American Enterprise Institute and host a breakfast with members of Congress, before heading to Mexico for talks with Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.For related news and features, visit our Brexit section.

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