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Learning English - Words in the News
01 April, 2005 - Published 11:33 GMT
Japan and Mexico free trade agreement
Pig farmers in Japan will be affected by the trade deal

After years of negotiations, a free trade agreement between Japan and Mexico comes into effect today. Japan has in the past been reluctant to sign trade pacts. The agreement affects a range of products, including pork. This report from Jonathan Head:

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From today, Japan's nine thousand pig farmers will experience something entirely new - competition. Under the terms of a landmark free trade agreement with Mexico, pork will be subject to much lower tariffs along with a range of other products. In fact, more than ninety percent of Mexican products will have their tariffs cut altogether. This is the first time Japan has made such an agreement with a major trading partner. The only other free trade pact it has is with Singapore which produces none of the sensitive agricultural commodities Japan has always protected in the past.

At the moment, Japan exports far more to Mexico than it imports. Mexican officials believe trade will be far more balanced now that the agreement is in place. It took more than two years of difficult negotiations to conclude. Many politicians in the governing liberal democratic party have their power base in rural areas and their reluctance to lift the tariffs protecting Japanese pig farmers nearly killed the deal. But the government believes it has no choice but to start opening Japan's agricultural sector to foreign competition. China has proved far more open to reaching free trade agreements helping it rival or even eclipse Japan's influence in the Asia Pacific region.

Jonathan Head, Tokyo

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comes into effect
is legal for the first time

free trade agreement
an agreement, or pact between countries to allow unlimited sales of products which are imported and exported without high charges

here, an adjective meaning first or very important

tax charged by governments on goods coming into or going out of the country

sensitive agricultural commodities
farmed products which are highly valued and so need to be dealt with carefully

in place
if something is in place, it legally exists

power base
the area of the country where most people support the politicians

killed the deal
almost stopped the agreement from happening

agricultural sector
area of business which relates to farming

here, to become more important than

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