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Mexico Tries to Attract Investors at  APEC Summit - 2003-10-20

Mexico's President Vicente Fox is looking to make his country a gateway for Asian investors and trade into the Americas. President Fox made his appeal to Asian companies in an address to more than 400 top executives attending a business forum during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation [APEC] summit in Bangkok.

Mr. Fox says he wants to attract business and investment from Asia to the Americas, and offer Mexico as a secure platform for exporters and investors to gain access to other regional markets in North and South America.

Mr. Fox's pitch comes as the Mexico's economy is reporting rising productivity and higher exports that reached $160 billion in 2002. The country is also enjoying strong inflows from foreign investment - some $14 billion last year alone.

As a former business executive for Coca-Cola, Mr. Fox highlighted Mexico's partnership with the U.S. and Canada through the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

But while Mexico has 32 free trade agreements in place, some 90 percent of all its exports were destined for the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Despite a failure last week to reach agreement with Japan on a bilateral free trade agreement, Mexico is now looking to diversify its trade and export base. A call for bilateral free trade agreements has run in tandem with the international negotiations governing World Trade Organization (WTO) over recent years.

Chilean President, Ricardo Lagos, speaking at the same business forum, said his country too had pursued an aggressive bilateral free trade policy with several major trading blocs.

"Today we have a free trade agreement with the European Union, with the European Free Trade Association or with the U.S., with Canada, with Mexico, with South Korea. In other words more than 80 percent of our trade now in some way or another is under a free trade agreement."

But Mr. Lagos also told business executives that social policies also needed to go hand in hand with expanding trade as well as support for multilateral trade agreements.

The leaders' summit in Bangkok of the 21-member APEC forum is hoping to get the WTO global trade talks that broke down in September over agricultural subsidy payments back on track.