OTTAWA -- The North American Free Trade Agreement opens up Mexico to U.S. and Canadian banks but gives outsiders less opportunity than the European Community does, a Japanese banker complained.

The trade pact, known as Nafta, is of strategic interest to Japanese bankers, but they are skeptical as to whether it may benefit them, Katsuyoshi Tamura, chief economist of the Bank of Tokyo's New York office, told those attending an Asian-American trade seminar.

"We are studying whether to open banking operations in Mexico," he said, "but we are not sure there will a sufficient customer base."

Japanese Auto Parts Firms Interested in Mexico

"Nafta is an American way to open up the Mexican financial markets," Mr. Tamura said. He added that regional trading agreements automatically become discriminatory.

While Japanese bankers are cool about Nafta, and reaction from manufacturing companies has been muted, Mr. Tamura said that the automotive industry is becoming more interested.

"Through our customer contacts, we can sense interest picking up in Nafta," he said. "The auto components companies are willing to jump into Mexico."

While he does not see Nafta's benefits extending to Asian countries, Mr. Tamura favors formation of a regional trading bloc in Asia.

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