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The government plans to reinforce relations with Latin American countries in a bid to capitalize on the abundance of natural resources and rapid economic development in the region, officials said.

Latin American nations are major suppliers of natural resources for Japan. For example, a quarter of the country’s iron ore imports comes from Brazil, while Bolivia and Chile are rich in lithium used in batteries for electric vehicles and other products.

Access to natural resources is indispensable for Japanese companies to compete with foreign rivals in the field of environmental protection, an official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

The government will increase its official development assistance for environment-related projects, including improving water and sewerage systems in Brazil and Bolivia, to help Japanese companies gain better access to natural resources there.

It will also support a consortium linking Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Mitsui & Co. and other companies that will bid this spring to develop a high-speed railway system in Brazil, a Foreign Ministry official said.

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