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Japan, Mexico fail to seal FTA during Fox's visit
( 2003-10-16 16:16) (Agencies)

Japan and Mexico have failed to clinch a free-trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries despite extensive talks among their ministers, Japan's top government spokesman said on Thursday.

The two sides had aimed to finalize a deal during a visit by Mexican President Vicente Fox, but "ran out of time," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said.

"You can say that we ran out of time. We could not finalize a deal and will continue negotiations," Fukuda told a news conference, adding that the two sides had not agreed on the timing of future talks.

Fox and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had agreed earlier on Thursday to try to conclude an FTA within the day despite remaining gaps over the politically sensitive farm sector.

The main stumbling block has been Mexico's demand for a removal of tariffs on pork -- one of its main exports to Japan -- which Tokyo has rejected to protect its pig farmers, whose political clout outweighs their economic significance.

Japanese media reports said Tokyo had offered to halve tariffs on Mexican pork as a compromise, but that Mexico, which wants tariffs replaced by import quotas, turned the offer down.

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