(Reuters) - Mexico on Monday gave its support to Japan's bid to join trade talks in the Asia-Pacific region that would create the world's largest free trade zone.
Japan asked to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in March and is awaiting a formal decision by the 11 current participating countries, which could come as early as this month.
"We express our sympathy, support and backing for the interest that Japan has shown in participating in the TPP," Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.
New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser said it was possible that Japan's bid would be approved when trade ministers of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meet in Indonesia on April 20-21.
If Japan, the world's third-largest economy, joins the TPP, the free trade zone would cover nearly 40 percent of world economic output.
Singapore has backed Japan's entry, but the United States is among the countries yet to express a view. The support of all current participants is needed before Japan can join.
Current TPP members - which also include Australia, Canada, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia - have a goal of finishing the talks this year, possibly in October at the annual APEC leaders meeting in Bali.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Additional reporting by Doug Palmer in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)