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UK's Hammond kicks off Brexit reassurance tour in South Africa
[LONDON] British finance minister Philip Hammond will seek to reassure some of the country's trade and investment partners that Brexit will not hurt them when he travels to South Africa on Wednesday and to Japan and South Korea next week.
Mr Hammond was first due to visit Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town on a two-day trip which will include meetings at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and with South African business representatives, the British Treasury said.
During his visit to Japan - which has expressed concerns about the implications of Brexit for its companies - Mr Hammond is scheduled to meet the chief executive of Softbank, which recently announced the purchase of ARM Holdings, the largest ever Asian investment in Britain.
Mr Hammond is due to visit Japan on Dec 15 followed by South Korea on Dec 16.
British exporters currently have privileged access to markets in South Africa and South Korea via agreements those countries struck with the EU. A similar EU-Japan is currently being negotiated.
Supporters of Brexit have said Britain will be able to strike replacement deals quickly once the country has left the EU. But many trade experts have said renegotiating them may prove harder to achieve.
In September, Japan warned that Britain's EU exit could prompt Japanese financial institutions to relocate from London and listed the concerns of its companies about the transition away from the EU.
Britain's government said in October it had given Japanese carmaker Nissan assurances that its new investment in a plant in north-eastern England would remain competitive after Brexit, but also said the firm had not been given any explicit promise of compensation for EU tariffs.
"As we leave the EU, Britain's future prosperity depends on maintaining the strongest possible economic links with our European neighbours, while building on the already strong economic partnerships we have with the world beyond Europe," Mr Hammond said in a statement.