December 02, 2003



Japan, Mexico Start Meetings To Untangle Trade Impasse Over Pork and Other Issues


Officials from Mexico and Japan opened talks on Monday to try to overcome an impasse in free trade talks.


A spokesman for the Economy Ministry, Julio Pastor, said the talks were "technical meetings to spell out the areas that will be discussed" later in more formal negotiations.


He said the talks were expected to last four days.


Negotiations stalled in October, apparently over Japan's reluctance to open its markets to some Mexican agricultural products.


"Five products are holding up the possibility of reaching this agreement," President Vicente Fox said on Nov. 19.


"It is very clear to Japan that either we agree that the market opens or there will not be a general trade agreement with Japan," Fox added.


In October, Fox said the main disagreements were over pork and orange juice. Pig farmers are an influential political constituency for Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.


Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said he wants an early finish to what would be only the second bilateral free trade agreement for his country, following one with Singapore.


Mexico has 32 such pacts and had been signing them so rapidly that the government recently declared a temporary moratorium on new negotiations at the request of Mexican businessmen who said they were struggling to understand what was already on the books.


Koizumi and Fox signed an agreement of intent to create a free-trade pact in October 2002.


Japan also is considering similar arrangements with the Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan.


Japanese exports of machinery, steel and automobile parts to Mexico totaled $3.77 billion in 2002. Mexico shipped $1.79 billion worth of products, including roughly 40,000 metric tons of pork worth an estimated $179 million.

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