Mexico says new EU trade deal is 'paramount'

By Elliot Bullman

A new free trade agreement with the European Union is of "paramount" importance for Mexico and both parties aim to conclude a deal this year, Mexico's deputy economy minister has said.

Mexico and the 28-nation bloc are holding a third round of negotiations this week to upgrade an existing accord dating from 2000 that principally just cut tariffs on industrial goods.

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Juan Carlos Baker, deputy minister for foreign trade, said that right now there is no other trade issue, more important for Mexico than this one.

Back in 2015, the two parties agreed to modernize their trade relations and subsequently held two rounds of talks last year. The election of U.S. President Donald Trump has prompted Mexico's to reduce its reliance on trading with the U.S.

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Now with EU-U.S. trade talks also frozen, the European Union has turned its focus to sealing deals with three other partners - Japan, Mercosur and Mexico.

Brussels is particularly keen on scoring successes on the trade front to show it is moving on from Britain's exit from the bloc and to prove it is a champion of free trade.

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Most free trade agreements (FTA) take years, but the EU and Mexico already have an existing FTA since 2000, with a number of products already tariff-free. Baker says he is optimistic that a deal could be struck this year.

The European Union is Mexico's third largest trading partner after the United States and China. EU-Mexico trade in goods more than doubled from 2000 to 53 billion euros ($57.23 billion) in 2015.

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