Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, August 17, 2018, 7:15 p.m. Mexico City, Mexico
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am visiting Mexico for the first time in approximately three months since my last visit. After holding a meeting with Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs de Icaza, I paid a courtesy call on President-elect Lopez Obrador.
Secretary of Foreign Affairs Videgaray, who is in Washington, D.C., was unable to return to Mexico as the NAFTA negotiations are in the final stage. We fully understand the situation and held a meeting over lunch with Acting Foreign Secretary de Icaza.
I expressed our gratitude for the Government of Mexico’s message of sympathy and offer of assistance during the heavy rain disaster in western Japan.
With regard to the TPP11 Agreement, taking into account that both Japan and Mexico completed their domestic procedures, we confirmed that the two countries will work together further towards the early entry into force of the TPP11 Agreement and its expansion.
Regarding the NAFTA renegotiations, I expressed our gratitude for the significant considerations being given to Japanese companies in Mexico by the Government of Mexico and asked for ongoing considerations.
I conveyed our appreciation to Mexico for the unprecedented close cooperation between our two countries, and concurred with my counterpart that efforts will continue to be made to fully maintain this relationship under the new administration.
The two sides also agreed to work together on North Korean issues and strengthening the relationship between Japan and The Pacific Alliance. In addition, we exchanged views regarding cooperation in the international arena, including nuclear disarmament and United Nations Security Council reform.
Foreign Secretary Videgaray kindly phoned from Washington, D.C., and we had a brief discussion.
During my courtesy call on President-elect Lopez Obrador who won the presidential election, I commented on the 400-year history of our bilateral relationship and the 130th anniversary of the formal establishment of our diplomatic relations, and looked forward to further deepening our favorable relations. President-elect Obrador stated that he too hoped to further strengthen the relationship.
I touched on the fact that Japan and Mexico enjoy unprecedented close economic relations and that over 1,000 Japanese companies are operating in Mexico, the largest number among all Latin American and Caribbean countries, and asked that Mexico continue to give considerations to Japanese companies in the NAFTA renegotiations. President-elect Obrador expressed appreciation for Japanese companies’ investment in Mexico over a very long period as well as employment creation, and said he was determined to give maximum considerations to such companies in order to protect their interests.
Through the early entry into force and the expansion of the TPP11 Agreement as well as strengthening the dialogue with The Pacific Alliance, we will seek to further deepen our bilateral relations. Also, given the scheduled visit to Japan by next Foreign Secretary Ebrard, we will continue to collaborate closely with Mexico.
Furthermore, this morning, I visited the Japan-Mexico Association in connection with the 120th anniversary of Japanese immigration to Mexico. While giving heed to the hardships endured by the immigrants, exchanges of views took place regarding the future Japan-Mexico relations and the relationship between Japan and the Nikkei (Japanese immigrants and descendants).
Reporter: I have a general question. You have just visited four Latin American and Caribbean countries, and it seems that a considerable focus was given to economic affairs or partnership. How do you assess your achievements in this regard? In addition, what steps will the Government of Japan be taking in light of these achievements?
Minister Kono: The four countries are those which are closely linked to the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy being promoted by Japan. Japan will work with Mexico and Peru towards the early entry into force of the TPP11 and its expansion, while Ecuador strives to join the Pacific Alliance. Furthermore, we were able to have a variety of discussions with Colombia with a view to strengthening our trade. Colombia expressed its wish to further accelerate the negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Through trade, Japan will strengthen its relations with the four countries. At the same time, we will strengthen our relationship with the Pacific Alliance, which shares common values and which Ecuador is now taking steps to join. In doing so, we will deepen not only our economic relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries but also our political relations and cooperation in the international arena. The four countries are also countries where the Nikkei have an active role. I see that the trust the Nikkei have earned has contributed towards the trust the people in the four countries have in Japan. The Government will take a variety of measures to strengthen the ties between Japan and the Nikkei community in the four countries.
Reporter: I have a question regarding your meeting with Mr. Lopez Obrador. With regard to the NAFTA renegotiations, the incumbent Peña Nieto administration has given maximum considerations to Japanese companies, and you just explained that Mr. Obrador is determined to do the same. Is it correct to understand that in your meeting with Mr. Obrador, you have received confirmation that the new administration will give considerations to Japanese companies similar to the Peña Nieto administration?
Minister Kono: I believe it will give maximum considerations to Japanese companies. The incumbent administration is currently participating in the negotiations, meanwhile, officials from the next administration are attending as observers and closely following the negotiations. Given also the assessment that the negotiations between the incumbent administration and the United States are going extremely well, I believe the incumbent administration’s considerations towards Japanese companies will be maintained.
Reporter: Mr. Obrador’s stance towards the TPP has not really been made clear through the news reports or other mediums. Is it correct to understand that you and Mr. Obrador agreed on pursuing the early entry into force of the TPP Agreement and the expansion of its member states, which Japan and the Peña Nieto administration have been promoting?
Minister Kono: Today, I exchanged a variety of views with the President and next Foreign Secretary Ebrard regarding the TPP11. The Government of Mexico has already ratified the Agreement and seeks to work closely with Japan towards its early entry into force. As such, Japan will work closely with Mexico, seizing opportunities such as next Foreign Secretary Ebrard’s visit to Japan.
Reporter: So is it correct that the two sides agreed on further expanding the TPP membership?
Minister Kono: We explained that that would increase the effectiveness of the TPP11.
Reporter: I have a question related to free trade. Did you and President-elect Obrador agree that Japan and Mexico would take leadership in maintaining free trade?
Minister Kono: I stated that Japan and Mexico played a significant role in the TPP11. The President-elect stated that he intends to take various actions to further strengthen Japan-Mexico economic relations. We intend to have extensive discussions with the new Foreign Secretary on these trade matters as well.
Reporter: My question is in relation to your earlier comment and is also related to the Indo-Pacific Strategy being prioritized by Japan. Did you and President-elect Obrador agree that the two countries would work hard together in regard to the Indo-Pacific Strategy?
Minister Kono: I will be exchanging views once again with next Foreign Secretary Ebrard regarding the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. Unfortunately, there was not much time today, leaving no time to provide a detailed explanation of Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. However, I will be discussing these matters with the next Foreign Secretary going forward.
Reporter: I have a question related to the earlier topic of free trade. Mexico is already subject to U.S. import restrictions on steel and aluminum, and yetthe NAFTA negotiations are being conducted. Did Mr. Obrador express his views regarding the current situation of NAFTA or the global free trade arrangements to some degree or in specific terms?
Minister Kono: Officials from the transition group are attending the NAFTA renegotiations as observers of the incumbent administration. President-elect Obrador expressed the view that the negotiations of the incumbent administration are going extremely well. He also mentioned that he and President Trump had various discussions over the telephone related to the Mexico-U.S. relations in general. While I will not go into the details of those discussions, my sense is that President-elect Obrador considers the Mexico-U.S. relations to have extremely bright prospects.