TOKYO (Reuters) - British Chancellor Philip Hammond said he wanted to negotiate optimum access to European Union markets to ensure Japanese investment banks and auto companies continue to invest in Britain.
Japanese government-related financing for a nuclear power project in Wales could total around 12 billion pounds, but negotiations are still on-going, Hammond said on Thursday after meeting business leaders and government officials in Tokyo.
Hammond is on a tour of South Africa, Japan and South Korea to reassure businesses and investors that Britain’s negotiations to leave the EU will not hurt their interests.
“I’ve been seeking to cement the U.K.-Japanese bilateral relationship,” Hammond told reporters.
“Japan is Britain’s second-most-important foreign direct investor after the United States.”
Britain is due to trigger the formal process of exiting the EU by the end of March - which will mark the two-year process of enacting Brexit - but the European Commission has said it wants an even shorter period for the talks, saying they should be completed by October 2018.
That tight deadline has raised concerns among businesses, including many British-based financial services firms, about the future in the event Britain and the EU have not agreed on a post-Brexit framework by then.
Japanese bankers expressed concern about access to EU markets, financial settlements and the ability to hire highly-skilled labour, Hammond said.
Negotiations for Brexit will be long and complex, but Britain aims to secure as much access as possible and any controls put in place on immigration will not keep out highly-skilled labour, Hammond said.
Hammond added that he wants to make sure Japanese auto companies continue to view Britain as a competitive place to invest.
Britain’s energy minister will visit Japan next week for talks with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation about funding for two nuclear power plants set to be built and operated by a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd in Wales, Hammond said.
Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Shri Navaratnam