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Japan and Mexico can strike a free-trade agreement when Mexican President Vicente Fox visits Tokyo on Oct. 15, trade minister Shoichi Nakagawa said Friday, downplaying hurdles in the final negotiations over agriculture.

“We believe the agreement will be reached when the president pays a visit to Japan,” Nakagawa said at a news conference.

Nakagawa, minister of economy, trade and industry, said the negotiations are not an “all-or-nothing” matter and that he thinks “a good result” will come in the end.

There has been speculation that Japan and Mexico may not be able to agree on a bilateral free-trade pact in time for Fox’s Oct. 15-18 visit because of differences over ways to deal with sensitive farm products, particularly pork exports from Mexico.

Mexico wants Japan to include pork in a list of farm products to be tariff-free, but Japan wants to exclude pork from the list, saying it needs to protect domestic hog raisers.

The two nations are expected to launch a final round of working-level negotiations from Monday in Tokyo in an effort to clear the hurdles before Fox’s visit.

Nakagawa welcomed a proposal by a Japanese-South Korean study group urging the two nations to launch full negotiations for a free-trade pact at an early date.

“We hope relations between Japan and South Korea will be improved through concluding an FTA,” Nakagawa said.

He said he hopes the two nations start government-level talks as soon as possible.

In a final report adopted at its eighth meeting Thursday in Seoul, the governmental-private sector group called on Japan and South Korea to start negotiations at an early date with an eye to concluding a comprehensive free-trade pact within a “reasonable time framework.”

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