I am pleased to speak in this debate.
I hope that we can continue to build on the strong relations between the United Kingdom and Japan. Both countries are advanced developed economies, and our liberal democracies share many cherished values, and none more important than trade. I welcome this debate, therefore, because as we leave the EU we must maximise our opportunities for trade and continue to grow our share of prosperity. OECD figures put our countries on a similar growth trajectory, yet we lag behind on export projections, with 3.3% growth, compared with 4.5% for Japan. We need to see this improve. It is essential that because, and not despite of, Brexit we develop an independent trade policy to facilitate and maximise our exports and support growing industries.
That is why I am determined that everything possible be done to ensure that our Government adopt a transitional trade agreement with Japan. We must adopt and build on this trade agreement to ensure continuing and blossoming relations with Japan. I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s work on her recent trade delegation visit to Japan, where she met the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and at which a commitment was given to working quickly to establish a new economic partnership between the UK and Japan to match as closely as possible the final terms reached in the EU agreement.
Why is this so important for the UK and places such as my constituency? Improving our trading relations with Japan means reducing the cost for British businesses wanting to trade with Japan and opening our businesses up to new and exciting opportunities. For places such as Stoke-on-Trent, this is not something new. We have a long and proud history of economic links with Japan. Many British ceramicists have imitated and developed the styles of the fine Japanese porcelain dating from the early 19th century. By the 1850s, with the opening up of trade between Japan and Britain, the flow of goods and influences on design and creativity only grew. Today, this exchange of ideas and creativity between our two countries goes from strength to strength.
Reiko Kaneko, a ceramicist with a studio in my constituency, grew up in Japan and has chosen to develop her business in Longton in Stoke-on-Trent South, designing and making fine modern ceramic products. Her hard work to build on and encourage greater collaboration between ceramic makers in the UK and Japan is to be celebrated, and I would encourage all hon. Members to buy some of her wonderful ceramics. I also had the honour of meeting the Japanese ambassador in Parliament towards the end of last year, and I was delighted to learn that he had recently visited World of Wedgwood in my constituency.
The Japanese continue to take an increasing interest in the UK and what we have to offer. Local manufacturers have told me that they see a real opportunity to boost sales of local products to the Japanese market. The continually growing demand for British products in Japan is a mark of the high quality of British products, especially ceramics.