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Argentine President Carlos Menem urged business leaders Thursday to promote investment in the republic to help correct a trade imbalance between the two countries.

Later in the day, Menem spoke at a Tokyo business forum commemorating the centenary of the signing of a friendly treaty between the two countries. He questioned why Japanese are reluctant to do what they can in investing in Argentina.

Citing his efforts to shift Argentina from an inflation- and corruption-ridden state to the current stabilized market economy in the past decade, Menem urged the Japanese side to invest capital in farming as well as new innovative industries.

“I expect this centenary to serve not only as a historical ceremony but also an opportunity for Japan and Argentine to invigorate their exchanges,” Menem said before an audience of about 360 people, including senior government officials, business leaders and consultants from both sides.

Menem went on to ask Japan to participate in Argentina’s effort to create global free trade areas beyond the realm of Mercosur, a Latin American open economic zone consisting of Argentina and three other countries and two associated nations.

The Argentine president said that Mercosur is aiming to make a free trade agreement by 2005 with the European Union, while trying to create a free trade network across North and South America.

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