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International Trade Secretary Liz Truss faced criticism after derailing post-Brexit trade deal talks with Japan over the export of cheese. However, a special adviser to Japan’s Prime Minister, Tomohiko Taniguchi, hinted that after better communication, Japan would realise the uniqueness of the situation and continue towards a speedy trade deal. While on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Mr Taniguchi claimed he remained optimistic the UK and Japan would soon agree a beneficial post-Brexit trade deal.
Host Nick Robinson said: “Liz Truss is now the Trade Secretary and acting on her passion for cheese exports by holding up a trade deal with Japan over the export of stilton.
“We can reflect on how trade deals work and this particular one with Tomohiko Taniguchi who is a special adviser to Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in Japan.
“Mr Taniguchi, how seriously should we take the suggestion that this enormous trade deal between Britain and Japan might be being held up over the exports of stilton cheese?”
The special adviser insisted the Japanese side should pay close attention to the sensitivities of the British Government and the issues they deem important going forward with a trade deal.
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He said: “I think the Japanese side should be aware of the sensitivities unique to stilton cheese.
“Arguably it is one of those sole foods that people in Britain have long cherished and loved.
“That much has not been conveyed well to the Japanese negotiators, let alone the Japanese public.”
He added with better communication between the two sides he remains confident a quick and profitable trade deal can be achieved for both sides.
He continued: “The unique value that stilton holds must be reported and well conveyed to the Japanese.
“That said, the number of exports of cheese from the UK to Japan is £2.6 million and whether this is big or small it is a matter of your political position.
“I think the position taken by Ms Truss is understandable because of the local politics.
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“That being said, the stumbling block is relatively small and the advancement that one can find in terms of the UK-Japan trade deal negotiations is one of the fastest.
“I am rather optimistic about this.”
Nick Robinson closed by saying: “I think I’m right in saying that there is only a £102,000 worth of stilton cheese that is being argued about.
“Surely a multi-billion pound trade deal will not falter over that.”
Mr Taniguchi laughed and agreed with the BBC host as to why he was still optimistic.
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