September 12, 2003

 

 

Japan Still Aims to Sign Trade Accord with Mexico in October; Setting Pork as an Exemption

 

 

Japan's farm minister said Thursday that despite snags on agriculture, the country still aims to sign a free trade agreement with Mexico this October.

 

The agreement would be the second for Japan, which only has a bilateral trade accord with Singapore. Mexico has dozens of trade agreements. Japan hopes to conclude negotiations before Mexican President Vicente Fox passes through Tokyo in mid-October on his way to a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Thailand.

 

"I do sincerely hope that when President Fox visits Japan, we will be in a position to come to a basic agreement with regard to the FTA between Mexico and Japan," Agriculture Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of the World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun.

 

Mexico wants greater access to Japan's lucrative food market for everything from avocados to pork. Pork, however, appears to be a sticking point in the talks. According to data from Japan's Finance Ministry, Mexico shipped just over 40,000 metric tons of pork to the country in 2002. That's a small fraction of the 777,178 metric tons of pork products that Japan imported last year, most of which came from the U.S.

 

Japanese pork producers are already struggling to compete against significant pork imports, Kamei said, with the number of pork farms in the country having shrunk by two-thirds over the past 10 years.

 

"We would like to look towards setting pork as an exemption in the FTA between Japan and Mexico," he said.