Mexico backs Japan joining talks on Pacific trade pact

Visiting Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced his support Monday for Japan's plan to join talks on forging a huge Pacific-wide free trade zone.

"We have expressed support for Japan's participation in TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) talks," Pena Nieto told a joint press conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Japanese premier said last month he wants to take part in talks on forging the huge trade pact. But he faces significant opposition from his own powerful farming lobby, which has long sheltered under steep tariffs.

The TPP forms a key plank in US President Barack Obama's vaunted "pivot" to Asia, and is seen by some as part of a US attempt to contain China's rising economic might.

Japan will need approval from the other 11 negotiating members before it can formally join the talks. Some participating states are wary of what they see as an inevitable attempt by Tokyo to exclude prized products from the agreement.

In written replies to questions submitted by Kyodo News before his visit, the Mexican leader expressed concern about any bid by Tokyo to secure tariff exemptions for rice and some other farm products.

However, Pena Nieto said the TPP talks would greatly benefit if Japan, the world's third largest economy, became part of the new trade framework.

The Mexican leader, who arrived in Tokyo Sunday as part of an Asian tour aimed at deepening economic ties with Japan and China, met Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko before his summit with Abe.

Japan and Mexico already have a bilateral free trade agreement. Japan was the largest foreign investor in Mexico in the first six months of last year, investing $2.416 billion or 34 percent of the total.

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report --