The UK has announced new trade deals with Singapore and Vietnam, rolling over trade terms previously agreed under EU deals.
International trade secretary Liz Truss said the moves would help make Britain a “global hub for services and technology trade,” paving the way for more agreements in the Asia Pacific region.
The deal with Singapore was signed in the country overnight, with the city-state Britain’s largest trading partner in south-east Asia. The agreement only preserves the existing terms of trade however, but a government press release said it would “lock in” the benefits of the relationship, worth £17.6bn a year.
The deal is one of dozens of rollover trade agreements that Brexit has forced the government to negotiate, as Britain will lose its current rights under EU arrangements from next year.
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The government said a similar deal with Vietnam will be concluded later on Thursday, with Truss traveling to the country to sign the deal. Trade between the two countries has tripled over the past decade to £5.7bn.
Some 99% of tariffs will be eliminated after seven years including on machinery and pharmaceuticals, Britain’s top exports to Vietnam, according to the department for international trade.
Officials say the Singapore agreement could also open up opportunities for UK fintech firms, by raising the limit they face on e-wallet payments. Singapore’s government only agreed to “start a review in 2021 to consider” making changes, however.
The government sees the two deals as a step towards Britain joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a wider trade bloc in the region.
It comes after the UK announced a trade deal with Japan in September, and an agreement with Canada on Wednesday. The UK government said the Canada agreement would save UK exporters around £42m ($56m) on tariffs they would otherwise have been forced to pay.
More than two-fifths of UK exports go to the EU. Negotiations are ongoing with just weeks until Britain’s transition period ends, risking severe economic disruption and damage if no deal is struck.
A dinner between UK prime minister Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen failed to break the deadlock in Brussels on Wednesday.
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