WASHINGTON (DTN)--Mexico, on May 15, sharply criticized a steep rise in U.S. farm subsidies, saying the new outlays will seriously strain ties between the North American Free Trade Agreement partners, according to Reuters.

The bill will damage both Mexican interests and the "exceptional" trade relations between the neighbors, a statement from the Economy Ministry said.

"The Mexican government is totally opposed to this legislation, given that by increasing subsidies for agriculture and dairy products, bilateral and multilateral trade relations could be put at risk," the ministry's statement said.

The statement added to the chorus of protests from U.S. trade partners over the farm bill that boosts U.S. crop and dairy subsidies by 67%, or $6.4 billion a year.

The U.S. is Mexico's top trade partner, while Mexico trails only Canada in the list of top U.S. trade partners. Trade between Mexico and the U.S. totaled $233 billion in 2001.

Just last month Washington and Mexico City agreed to create a binational agricultural trade committee to act as a "rapid response team" to food trade issues that emerge as trade tariffs between the two nations are lifted in January 2003.

Mexico and the U.S. are at loggerheads over various agriculture issues, including a three-year-old sweetener dispute involving the imports and exports of sugar and corn syrup between the two countries.

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