Visiting Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto yesterday announced his support for Japan’s plan to join talks on forging a huge Pacific-wide free-trade zone.
“We have expressed support for Japan’s participation in TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] talks,” Pena Nieto said after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The Japanese prime minister said last month he wants to take part in talks on forging the huge trade pact. However, he faces significant opposition from his own powerful farming lobby, which has long sheltered under steep tariffs.
The TPP forms a key plank in US President Barack Obama’s vaunted “pivot” to Asia, and is seen by some as part of a US attempt to contain China’s rising economic might.
Japan will need approval from the other 11 negotiating members before it can formally join the talks. Some participating states are wary of what they see as an inevitable attempt by Tokyo to exclude prized products from the agreement.
In written replies to questions submitted by Kyodo News before his visit, Pena Nieto expressed concern about any bid by Tokyo to secure tariff exemptions for rice and some other farm products.
However, Pena Nieto said the TPP talks would greatly benefit if Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, became part of the new trade framework.
Pena Nieto, who arrived in Tokyo on Sunday as part of an Asian tour aimed at deepening economic ties with Japan and China, met Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko before his summit with Abe.
Japan and Mexico already have a bilateral free-trade agreement. Japan was the largest foreign investor in Mexico in the first six months of last year, investing US$2.416 billion or 34 percent of the total.