Toggle high contrast
Issue date
  • To ensure Japanese companies continue to invest, UK must negotiate barrier- and tariff-free trade with EU, says joint statement.
  • With tens of thousands already facing unemployment, “government must not make things worse”, says TUC chief

As UK-Japan trade talks commence today (Tuesday), the leader of Japan’s trade union federation has joined forces with the British TUC to warn that Japanese investment in the UK is at risk unless the government negotiates a deal with the EU that allows barrier- and tariff-free trade.

EU deal

The TUC and JTUC-Rengo – union federations which together represent over 11 million workers – agree that the UK government’s priority should be negotiating a good trade deal with the EU.

The joint statement observes that the UK’s access to EU markets has been a major driver of Japanese investment in the UK, which supports thousands of good, unionised jobs, particularly in manufacturing, research and service sectors.

To ensure Japanese companies continue to invest, the union federations are calling on the UK government to negotiate a deal with the EU that allows continued trade without barriers or tariffs.

Japan deal

The statement also outlines a series of key requirements for any Japan-UK trade deal, including:

  • Enforceable commitments to protect workers’ rights.
  • Exclusion of all public services, including health, transport and education.
  • Exclusion of all kinds of special courts which allow foreign investors to sue governments for actions that threaten their profits, such as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) or the Investment Court System (ICS).
  • Protection for the right of both governments to use public procurement to support economic development, improve working conditions and pursue social and environmental objectives.

To ensure that these requirements are met and that the deal prioritises the interests of working people, the TUC and JTUC-RENGO are calling on both governments to engage with unions in trade negotiations.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:  

“The UK economy and hundreds of thousands of jobs are already under pressure because of Covid-19 – the government must not make things worse by botching our future trading relationships.

“Nissan and other Japanese businesses have been clear that their current UK operations could become unsustainable if the UK fails to negotiate a good deal with the EU. The loss of those good, unionised jobs would be a devastating blow to communities like Sunderland.

“Ministers must get serious about delivering a deal with the EU that supports jobs, workers’ rights and the economy, and take no deal firmly off the table.”

“A decent deal with the EU that secures high standards on workers’ rights and good jobs is an essential foundation for new trading relationships further overseas.”


Notes to editors:

The full statement reads:

Together Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-RENGO) and the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) bring together over 11 million workers from the UK and Japan. The UK’s future trade negotiations will have a great impact on both Japanese and British workers.  We urge both British and Japanese governments to engage with trade unions to ensure future trade negotiations safeguard jobs, protect rights and public services.

UK-EU negotiations

To ensure Japanese companies continue to invest and support good jobs in the UK, it is crucial that the UK and EU negotiate a deal that allows companies to continue to trade in goods and services without barriers or tariffs.

A major reason why Japanese companies have come to the UK is that it provided a gateway to trade without barriers or tariffs with the rest of the EU due to the UK’s membership of the single market. Japanese firms with big plants in the UK sell most of their British-made goods in the EU. Investment by Japanese companies supports thousands of good, unionised jobs in the UK, particularly in manufacturing, research and service jobs. For example, in the North East, Japanese companies provide quality employment.

It is also crucial that the UK and EU negotiate a deal that guarantees that workers in the UK will continue to be protected by the same levels of employment rights as those found in the EU.

To guarantee these objectives, the UK must negotiate a deal with the EU that achieves the closest possible relationship to the single market and a customs union.

UK-Japan negotiations

Unions in the UK and Japan call on our governments to ensure any trade deal involving Japan and the UK:

  • Contains enforceable commitments to respect International Labour Organisation core conventions on labour rights and Sustainable Development Goals with material consequences if these commitments are abused. Before any agreement is concluded, Japan must ratify and implement ILO Convention 105 on forced labour and Convention 111 on discrimination and implement ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association and Convention 98 on collective bargaining in relation to the civil service. 
  • Protects the right of governments to use public procurement, to support economic development, improve working conditions and pursue social and environmental objectives.
  • Protects the ability of both governments to regulate our tax systems and financial services.
  • Excludes all public services including health, transport and education through the use of a ‘positive list’ approach.
  • Exclude any kind of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) style court systems which have the possibility to violate the rights of making laws on workers’ rights, public services, welfare, and environment.

To ensure any deal involving the UK and Japan achieves these objectives, we call on our governments to ensure transparency and engagement of trade unions in negotiations and in the monitoring of any agreement, once ratified. 

Frances O’Grady                                              Rikio Kozu

General Secretary                                            President

Trades Union Congress                                 Japanese Trade Union Confederation

(TUC)                                                               (JTUC-RENGO)

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

-  The Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or RENGO, is a trade union national centre in Japan with the membership of 7 million. Since its inception in 1989, RENGO has been struggling to protect jobs and achieve a better life for all workers

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

To access the admin area, you will need to setup two-factor authentication (TFA).

Setup now