Foreign minister to visit Australia, Japan in post-Brexit trade drive

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab gestures as he appears on BBC TV's The Andrew Marr Show in London, Britain February 2, 2020. Jeff Overs/BBC/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s foreign minister will visit Australia, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia over the next few days as part of efforts to secure free trade deals now that the country has left the European Union.

Dominic Raab will hold meetings with his counterpart and business executives in Australia on Thursday and Friday before heading to Japan on Saturday and ending his trip in Singapore and Malaysia, the Foreign Office said.

Britain formally left the European Union on Jan. 31 and the government will spend the year negotiating its future relationship with Brussels and trying to strike agreements with major economies such as the United States and Japan.

“Now is the time to put Global Britain into action,” said Raab.

“The Asia-Pacific region is full of opportunities and our message is that the UK is open for business and a great place to invest.”

Japanese firms are already big investors in Britain with manufacturers encouraged by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in the 1980s to use the country as a gateway into the rest of the EU.

Many are now concerned about possible trade friction between Britain and the continent after a transition period finishes at the end of December and Tokyo could seek the elimination of tariffs on exported goods as part of a deal with London.

Reporting by Costas Pitas