Following the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Cancún Ministerial Conference, the corresponding lack of progress on the Doha Agenda and the relative explosion of bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) being negotiated globally, Japan reviewed its trade strategies and policy and, for the first time, expressed its intention to pursue both bilateral and multilateral trade agreements. Consequently, and with the stated aim of pursuing bilateral FTAs in order to strengthen and progress the multilateral agenda, Japan began investigating the possibilities of FTAs with Singapore, Mexico, Malaysia, Korea, Thailand and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Japan quickly concluded its first FTA (termed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)) with Singapore in January 2002. Negotiations with Mexico progressed more slowly, and for a time it appeared that they would collapse entirely over the issue of agricultural liberalization. Finally, on 17 September 2004, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan and President Vicente Fox Quesada of Mexico signed the Agreement between Japan and the United Mexican States for the Strengthening of the Economic Partnership (JMEPA or ‘the Agreement’) in Mexico City, thus ending nearly two years of tough negotiations in which both sides were forced to compromise and overcome some substantial and divisive issues.
The stated purposes and effects of the Agreement are to:
[P]romote a liberalization of trade and investments as well as a freer flow of persons for business purposes between Japan and México. The Agreement also aims to promote a comprehensive economic partnership, which includes competition policy, improvement of business environment and bilateral cooperation in such fields as vocational education and training, and support for small and medium enterprises. The Agreement contributes to making the most of the economic complementarity between Japan and México and thus to strengthening the bilateral economic relations.