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ENSENADA, Mexico (Kyodo) Mexico hopes a free-trade agreement with Japan will boost bluefin tuna exports to the Asian country, where the fish is favored as a high-end sashimi delicacy.

“All the fishery is in negotiation, and there was important progress in that area” during the talks in January, Angel Villalobos, Mexican vice minister of economy in charge of international commerce, said.

Mexico became the second-largest exporter, after Spain, of bluefin tuna to Japan in 2003, with a 14 percent market share. The removal of Tokyo’s 3.5 percent tariff on bluefin tuna would boost exports to Japan.

Japan imports about 50 percent of the bluefin tuna it consumes, mainly from 10 nations.

Bluefin tuna are raised exclusively for export to Japan in Ensenada, north of the Baja California Peninsula and 110 km from the U.S. border.

Schools of bluefin tuna arrive from waters near Japan in the summer and stay near Ensenada, where warm and cold currents create good conditions for raising the fish.

Cultivators capture hundreds of tuna a day, and breed them in fish ponds for four to eight months until they grow large enough to export.

Mexico ‘baffles’ Japan

Shoichi Nakagawa, minister of economy, trade and industry, urged Mexico Friday to compromise more in order to sign a free-trade pact.

“We have been baffled (by Mexico) for several months,” he said.

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