Reuters International

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's government said on Tuesday it will begin talks with the European Union next month to update a bilateral free trade agreement in force since 2000, opening the door to deeper economic ties between the two sides.

Thrashed out in the late 1990s, the EU accord was one of Mexico's most important bilateral deals, and followed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico the United States and Canada, which came into effect in 1994.

Also including pledges to step up cooperation and political dialogue, the EU-Mexico deal liberalized trade considerably, though agriculture, for example, is not fully open yet.

Meats, dairy products, cereals, and certain fruits and vegetables, are among goods still to be liberalized, according to the EU's web page on the agreement.

Mexico announced the planned update after meetings in Mexico City on Tuesday between EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and senior Mexican officials.

In a statement, the Mexican government said the first round of talks with the EU would be held in June at a date still to be determined, and that the two sides aimed to make quick progress.

"This is a very important process because it allows us to update and deepen relations with Europe," said Jaime Zabludovsky, a key Mexican negotiator of the initial accord.

The original agreement was struck at a time when e-commerce was still in its infancy. Also, Mexico's economy has undergone significant liberalization under President Enrique Pena Nieto, notably in the oil and gas industry, as well as telecoms.

The push to deepen trade ties with Europe comes amid concern among Mexican leaders about attacks on NAFTA in the U.S. presidential campaign, notably by Republican hopeful Donald Trump and Democratic contender Bernie Sanders.

Total trade between Mexico and the EU was worth $62.1 billion in 2015, according to European Union figures.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Michael Perry)


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