U.S. Raising Mexico Energy Policy Concerns, Trade Chief Says

President Joe Biden’s top trade negotiator said that the U.S. has “real concerns” about Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s energy policy and will look for avenues to address them.

The American and Canadian energy industries say the leader known as AMLO is discriminating against foreign companies with changes to electricity and hydrocarbons laws. His administration has sought to roll back the 2013-2014 reforms that opened Mexico to private drilling, working to return much of the sector to state-owned crude producer Petroleos Mexicanos and electric utility Comision Federal de Electricidad.

“We are raising our concerns, we are here to engage, and we will be exploring avenues for addressing our concerns,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told reporters on Wednesday after finishing a meeting with Mexican Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier and Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng.

Tai traveled to Mexico City to meet with her counterparts to commemorate the one-year anniversary of their free-trade deal and to look at ways to build on it. Ng dubbed the grouping “the Three ‘Amigas,’” or friends in Spanish, in reference to the North American Leaders’ Summit that the nations’ heads of government have held in recent years prior to the Trump administration.

Mexico’s energy ministry recently designated Pemex as the operator of the country’s largest crude discovery by private firms, the latest sign of the government’s nationalist approach to the energy industry.

Ng reiterated Canada’s ongoing concern with the investment climate in Mexico, specifically in the energy and mining sectors, her office said in an emailed statement.

Rules for automotive production and labor are the heart of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and the issue has been in focus in the past couple of months after the U.S. in May asked Mexico, under the deal’s rapid-response mechanism, to review whether employees at a General Motors Co. facility are being denied their rights. The AFL-CIO -- the U.S.’s biggest labor-union federation -- filed another complaint.

The Mexican government told the U.S. last month that it’s ready to work with the Biden administration to draw up a plan to remedy the denial of workers’ rights at the GM pickup-truck plant in Silao, Guanajuato.

Tai said that she wanted to acknowledge the Mexican government for identifying irregularities in the union vote at the GM plant early on. She said that the use of the rapid-response mechanism is to help the U.S. reinforce Mexico’s labor overhaul, a “cultural change” that is “in Mexico’s interests, our interest, North America’s interest and then most importantly in the interest of Mexico’s workers and America’s workers.”

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