• Kyodo

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Japan and Mexico agreed Wednesday to restart working-level negotiations late this month in a bid to get stalled talks on a bilateral free-trade agreement back on track, Japanese government officials said.

The resumption of these negotiations was agreed upon during a deputy minister-level meeting, with the countries having failed to strike an accord last month ahead of a meeting in Tokyo between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Japanese and Mexican negotiators are due to meet in Mexico City in an attempt to break the impasse over farm trade, which centers on pork and orange juice imports from Mexico.

A Japanese participant said “no major changes were seen” in both sides’ positions, suggesting that negotiators may yet experience difficulty in tackling tariffs and other contentious issues.

Ryuichiro Yamazaki, an ambassador for international economic affairs, attended the gathering for Japan, along with Tadakatsu Sano, vice minister for international affairs within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and Hiroyuki Kinoshita, vice minister for international affairs within the farm ministry.

The Mexican delegates included Angel Villalobos, vice minister of the economy ministry in charge of international commerce.

Sources familiar with the Los Angeles meeting said Mexico appeared reluctant to make hasty compromises on agricultural issues on the basis of its experiences in FTA arrangements with the European Union, United States and Canada.

Japanese officials meanwhile appear to want to avoid a sudden twist in the course of negotiations that could hurt the interests of influential rural voters ahead of Sunday’s election, the sources said.

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