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Mexico combines bridge-building with cuisine promotion

The Mexican Embassy in Korea hosted a dinner reception at a hotel in downtown Seoul on Tuesday to bolster the work of Mexican food professionals at a four-day international food exhibition.

The reception and the food exhibition occurred at a time when Mexico and Korea could restart talks for a long-stalled free trade agreement.

“This promotion and tasting event not only builds bridges between the two countries but it also allows for a generation of new allies of Mexico in Korea and Mexico,” said Luz Elena Banos Rivas, Mexico’s deputy head of mission in Korea.

Nine Mexican companies were in Korea participating in this year’s international exhibition for food, Seoul Food 2013, until Friday at Korea International Exhibition Center.
Mexican Deputy Head of Mission Luz Elena Banos Rivas (fourth from right) poses for a photo with other envoys of member nations of the Pacific Alliance, a group of four Latin American countries that are eyeing better trade links with East Asia as a way to bolster their economies, at the Seoul Food 2013 exhibition at KINTEX on Tuesday. (Mexican Embassy)
Mexican Deputy Head of Mission Luz Elena Banos Rivas (fourth from right) poses for a photo with other envoys of member nations of the Pacific Alliance, a group of four Latin American countries that are eyeing better trade links with East Asia as a way to bolster their economies, at the Seoul Food 2013 exhibition at KINTEX on Tuesday. (Mexican Embassy)

Banos Rivas said that Mexican cuisine brought Mesoamerican and European culinary traditions together and that Mexican cuisine had influenced the culinary traditions of countries around the world, especially through the provision of such products as tomatoes, chocolate and avocados.

“(Mexican cuisine) has also been influenced by the cuisines from other countries, making it more varied and attractive,” Banos Rivas said.

This year’s exhibition hosted 2,850 booths with 1,450 exhibitors and 50,000 professional visitors at KINTEX.

Mexican products promoted this year included avocados, cactus, agave syrup and roasted suckling pig, as well as tequila, Mexico’s signature spirit.

Commercial links between Mexico and Korea have surged in recent years. There are 1,500 Korean-owned companies located in Mexico and cumulative Korean investment there of $1 billion.

Cultural links are considerable, too. About 12,000 Koreans of mixed ancestry live in Mexico as a result of migration to Mexico over 100 years ago.

Although Korea has inked free trade agreements with three South American nations ― Colombia, Peru and Chile ― it has yet to restart stalled trade talks with Mexico, its largest Latin American commercial partner in terms of trade volume. Two-way trade was almost $12 billion in 2012, more than $9 billion of which was Korean exports to Mexico.

Korea and Mexico launched free trade talks in 2007 but negotiations stalled after the second round in 2008, due in part to concerns in Mexico that such a pact could widen its trade deficit with South Korea.

The government announced it would unfreeze negotiations in June 2012 and Mexican Ambassador to Korea Martha Ortiz de Rosas has cited “good signs” that negotiations could be concluded within the year if talks restart in an interview with Yonhap News in November last year.

According to an official at the Mexican Embassy, however, negotiators have yet to formally meet.

By Philip Iglauer (ephilip2011@heraldcorp.com)
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