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British Chancellor Hammond Goes on Tour to Strengthen Non-EU Ties

(AFP) – British finance minister Philip Hammond on Wednesday flies to South Africa, followed by trips next week to Japan and South Korea, as Britain seeks “stronger global ties” before Brexit.

“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,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Hammond said in a Treasury statement.

“In the course of these visits I’ll be discussing how the UK can deepen its economic and investment ties with these countries and make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.”

The Treasury added that Hammond, who on Tuesday was in Brussels to discuss Britain’s impending departure from the European Union, “will embark on a series of international trips to showcase the UK’s commitment to forming even stronger global ties”.

Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has stated that she will formally trigger the two-year EU divorce process by the end of March 2017.

However, Brussels and London face the daunting prospect of gruelling negotiations on future trade deals with the European Union and countries outside of the bloc.

On his trip to South Africa, Hammond will visit the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and partake in a roundtable discussion with business leaders from major local companies.

South Africa is Britain’s biggest export market in Africa, with its bilateral trade hitting almost £8.0 billion ($10.2 billion, 9.5 billion euros) in 2015.

Hammond will go on to meet the Japan’s finance minister Taro Aso and Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda, as well as with Softbank chief executive Masayoshi Son.

The mobile giant’s recent $32-billion takeover of iphone chipmaker ARM Holdings is the biggest Asian investment in the UK.

In South Korea, Hammond will hold bilateral meetings with government ministers and the Bank of Korea’s governor Lee Ju-Yeol.

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