• Kyodo

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Mexico hinted Tuesday it may delay talks over a free trade agreement with Japan, currently scheduled for mid-October, a Japanese official said.

Mexican farm minister Javier Usabiaga reportedly told his Japanese counterpart, Yoshiyuki Kamei, that he had been instructed by President Vicente Fox not to rush the FTA talks if it is perceived that Mexico will be unable to achieve a significant outcome.

During his meeting here with Kamei, Usabiaga said Fox had told him there would be no problem in delaying the agreement with Japan, the official said.

This marks the first time that Mexico has suggested it may postpone the FTA, the Japanese official said.

This development clouds the prospects of a deal being struck in mid-October, when Fox plans to visit Tokyo.

Usabiaga said Mexico is unhappy that Japan has excluded pork from a list of 300 agricultural products on which it is willing to lift tariffs, the official said.

Tokyo presented the 300-item list to Mexico in August.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has not publicly released the items on the list, but pumpkins, melons, eggs and sunflower seed oil are thought to feature.

The Mexican farm minister also stated that the list is smaller than Mexico had hoped, the official said.

Mexico has asked Japan to remove tariffs on 485 farm products, with a particular emphasis on pork, which is one of its major exports.

But Kamei said that Japan had not included what it considers to be “sensitive” products, the official said.

Kamei added that Mexico’s requests are excessive, especially in light of the fact that some of the Mexican products in question have never been exported to Japan, according to the official.

Kamei stressed that Japan cannot adopt a flexible stance right now, noting that a general election may be held in the fall, the official said.