Mexico expects Japan to open up its fruit and vegetable markets under a bilateral free-trade agreement for which the two countries have just begun negotiations, a senior Mexican official said Tuesday.

“There is an important potential, particularly in the area of fruits and vegetables,” said Eduardo Ramos, director general for multilateral trade policy at Mexico’s Ministry of Economy and a member of the negotiation team.

Japan and Mexico agreed Monday to try to conclude a “meaningful” FTA as they kicked off formal negotiations in Tokyo, aiming to conclude the talks within a year.

Working-level officials held informal talks Tuesday, the last day of a two-day inaugural meeting that followed an agreement by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President Vicente Fox last month in Mexico to launch such negotiations.

“We really hope that we can get access (for) some of these fruits in the Japanese market,” Ramos said in a press briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

“In a way, we think that this FTA including some agricultural goods could harm the agricultural sector in Japan, but it is imperative on the Mexican side to have this sector in,” he added.

The briefing was held ahead of a seminar jointly organized by the U.S., Canadian and Mexican embassies in the afternoon to share lessons from the North American Free Trade Agreement’s “success story.”

Donald Campbell, former Canadian deputy foreign minister, who also attended the briefing, said the Japan-Mexico FTA may even evolve in the future into a regional arrangement between Japan and NAFTA.

“It may well be that we want to look even more ambitiously over time in terms of Japan and NAFTA itself, because . . . there still remain rules of origin issues in terms of a complete access to the North American market,” said Campbell, now at Canada’s simulation and controls equipment provider CAE.

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