An Ashbourne food producer has said a new trade deal with Japan could be the icing on the cake for the growing business.
Artisan Biscuits, which is based in the Airfield Industrial Estate, partnered with a Japanese importer last year in a deal worth £57,000 – and bosses say the the new agreement will be a boon for other East Midlands firms.
The UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was signed by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss with Japan’s Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu.
A gift of Stilton Cheese was given at the historic signing – the first major trade deal that goes beyond the existing EU deal.
Artisan Biscuits director John Siddall said: “Japan is a sophisticated market that values quintessential British products such as our biscuits, which Japanese consumers like to have with certain types of teas.
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“We source the finest quality ingredients from all over the world, but our clotted cream only comes from the West Country.
“A free trade agreement could make it easier to export our biscuits as we continue to grow in the country over the coming years.”
This year the award-winning baker hired 20 new staff members and exports to over 60 countries including Canada and the US, with 45% of its annual turnover coming from international sales.
East Midlands businesses exported goods worth around £550 million to Japan in 2019, with reduced tarfiffs on offer as part of the UK-Japan agreement.
Mrs Truss says the deal could benefit more than 700 businesses in the East Midlands.
At the signing she said: “Today is a landmark moment for Britain.
“It shows what we can do as an independent trading nation, as we secure modern and bespoke provisions in areas like tech and services that are critical to the future of our country and the reshaping of our economy.
“Trade is a powerful way to deliver the things people really care about.
“At its heart, this deal is about creating opportunity and prosperity for all parts of our United Kingdom and driving the economic growth we need to overcome the challenges of coronavirus.
“The agreement also has a much wider strategic significance. It opens a clear pathway to membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – which will open new opportunities for British business and boost our economic security – and strengthens ties with a like-minded democracy, key ally and major investor in Britain.”
Around 95,000 people work in the UK textile industry, and firms exported more than £175 million worth of textiles and leather products to Japan in 2019.
The deal could mean UK exporters receive preferential tariffs, through new and more liberal Rules of Origin, that would allow firms to source ingredients from anywhere in the world and export to Japan.
It is thought the agreement could boost UK-Japan trade by £15.7 billion, driving economic growth and increasing UK workers’ wages by £800 million in the long run.
Stilton cheese is among products from the East Midlands which will be officially recognised as a geographical indicator (GI) in CEPA, along with Buxton Blue Cheese and Dovedale Cheese.
UK exports to Japan have been growing by an average of 8.2% year-on-year over the previous five years.