Sharp, Sony, Panasonic halt Mexico trips on swine flu worry

Mexico is a major manufacturing base for Japanese companies because of its cheap labour.

Several of Japan's largest electronics companies have halted business trips to Mexico after a deadly outbreak of swine flu in the country.

Panasonic stopped business trips to Mexico from Saturday and Sharp took a similar measure in the last few days, both companies said. Sony began asking employees to avoid travel where possible to Mexico City from Monday although its request is short of an outright ban.

Many major electronics companies use Mexico as a production base for the North American market to take advantage of cheaper labor. Both Sharp and Sony have LCD television assembly plants in Mexico while Panasonic uses the country as a base for TVs in addition to other consumer electronics products.

The swine flu outbreak had killed at least 62 in Mexico as of Friday, according to the World Health Organization. On Saturday the organization declared the outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern."

Over the weekend Mexican authorities have called on people to avoid places with large crowds in an attempt to stop the spread of the flu and confirmed and suspected cases have begun to appear in other countries. Asian nations, which have experienced an avian flu outbreak in recent years, began screening passengers arriving from Mexico at airports.

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Martyn Williams

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