, TOKYO, Apr 8 – Visiting Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto will likely announce his support for Japan’s plan to join talks on forging a huge Pacific-wide free trade zone on Monday, officials said.
Tokyo expects Pena Nieto will back its participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations during talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later on Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
“We expect Mexico will show a positive attitude on Japan’s early participation in TPP negotiations” during summit talks, Suga said Monday.
A foreign ministry official in charge of trade talks similarly told AFP “we are expecting the president will announce his support” for Japan’s participation.
The TPP forms a vital plank in US President Barack Obama’s vaunted “pivot” to Asia, and is seen by some as part of a US bid to contain China’s rising economic might.
The Japanese premier said last month he wanted to take part in talks to forge the huge trade pact, but faces significant opposition from his own powerful farming lobby, which has long sheltered under towering tariffs.
Japan will need approval from the other 11 negotiating members before it can formally join the talks and some participating states are chary of what they see as an inevitable attempt to exclude prized products from the agreement.
In written replies to questions submitted by Kyodo News ahead of his visit to Japan, the Mexican leader expressed concerns about any bid by Tokyo to secure tariff exemptions for rice and some other farm products when it joins talks on the TPP.
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, Kyodo said.
The Mexican leader, who arrived in Tokyo on Sunday as part of his Asian tour aimed at deepening economic ties with Tokyo and Beijing, will meet Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko before his summit with Abe.
Japan and Mexico already have a bilateral free trade agreement and Japan was the largest foreign investor in Mexico in the first six months of last year.
Japan Inc. invested $2.416 billion, accounting for 34 percent of the total amount of foreign direct investment in Mexico, according to the Mexican government’s business promotion body ProMexico.