Ceramic manufacturers have welcomed the UK’s new trade agreement with Japan – their fourth largest export market.
The deal, which has been agreed ‘in principle’ by the two countries, is Britain’s first major post-Brexit free trade agreement.
While pottery firms, including local producers such as Burleigh, have benefited from the EU’s existing trade deal with Japan in recent years, the Government says the new agreement will be an improvement on the status quo.
Ministers claim the deal will increase trade between the countries by £15.2 billion, and boost Britain’s economy by £1.5 billion – although critics have pointed out that this equates to just 0.07 per cent of the UK economy.
The Government’s announcement of the deal does not mention any specific benefits for the ceramic industry – as it does for other sectors, such as financial services and cheese – but it does say there will be greater protection for ‘iconic UK goods’.
Burleigh Pottery, based at Middleport, is one local company which could benefit from increased trade with Japan.
The company saw its exports to Japan grow by 60 per cent last year, increasing sales to £250,000. Burleigh’s unique decoration style and heritage make it particularly appealing in markets such as Japan.
Jim Norman, commercial director at Burleigh, said: “Our brand is recognised globally for beautiful designs and unmatched traditional craftsmanship which hold strong appeal for Japanese consumers.
“There is a rich tradition of tea drinking shared by the UK and Japan. In both our cultures, taking tea is a ceremonial act grounded in the everyday and the occasion.
“Our hand-made pieces have always been popular in Japan and we welcome any trade agreements which will benefit businesses like ours.”
The British Ceramic Confederation (BCC) also welcomed the trade deal with Japan.
It tweeted: “Fantastic news about the UK-Japan #FTA! This is the 4th largest export market for #ceramics.
“Thank you @tradegovuk @trussliz for your work here! Much appreciated by our members.”
But the BCC has previously called for a trade deal with the EU, which accounts for more than half the sector’s exports, to be agreed before the end of the year. Doubts over whether this will be achieved have been growing due to a disagreement over the Withdrawal Agreement.
The Government says the new Japan trade deal, which should come into effect once the Brexit transition period ends on January 1, will remove various trade barriers between the two countries. This will result in tariff-free trade on 99 per cent of UK exports to Japan.
There will also be improved market access for UK financial services, ‘cutting-edge’ digital and data provisions, and new protections for UK creative industries.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “This is a historic moment for the UK and Japan. This is our first major post-Brexit trade deal and it goes far beyond the existing EU deal by securing new wins for British businesses including in our great manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries.
“From our car manufacturers to our ceramicists, this deal will create new opportunities for people throughout the whole of the UK and help level up our country.
“Strategically, the deal is an important step towards joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership and placing Britain at the centre of a network of modern free trade agreements with like-minded friends and allies.”