TOKYO — Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said his government will back Japan’s application to join talks on a U.S.-backed regional trade accord that would lower tariffs in countries that account for 40 percent of global trade.
“I received support from the president for Japan’s participation,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a press conference with Pena Nieto today in Tokyo. The two leaders signed an agreement to boost cooperation on energy and policy in central and South America.
Abe last month said the world’s third-largest economy will seek to become the 12th member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a step that requires the consent of all existing members, which include Mexico.
At the same time, he vowed to protect an agriculture industry that puts a 778 percent tariff on rice and has traditionally backed his Liberal Democratic Party.
Mexican support highlights Japan’s position as its largest foreign investor, having poured $2.4 billion into the North American country in the first half of 2012. Nissan Motor Co. is the biggest automaker in Mexico, and Mazda Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. are boosting production there.
Pena Nieto told Kyodo News in a written interview before his arrival that Japan should fall in line with the goal of TPP participants for a “high level” of trade liberalization. Japan also imposes tariffs of 328 percent on sugar and 218 percent on powdered milk.
President Barack Obama, who is aiming for an accord that also strengthens patent protection and greater access to government contracts, is pushing Japan to ease barriers for American automakers.
Joining the trade block would boost Japan’s economy by 3.2 trillion yen ($32.5 billion) while lowering agricultural and marine products by 3 trillion yen, according to government estimates.
Japan already has a bilateral trade agreement with Mexico. The other existing members of the TPP talks are the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Peru, Chile, and Vietnam.
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