* Package of bills passes to lower house of Congress
* Energy reform the centerpiece of Pena Nieto's agenda
* Final approval of energy laws expected by early August
(Updates with Senate approving pending bills)
By David Alire Garcia
MEXICO CITY, July 21 Mexico's Senate completed
on Monday approval of the bulk of legislation setting out rules
and regulations for President Enrique Pena Nieto's opening of
the oil and gas market, the cornerstone of his economic agenda.
The package of so-called secondary laws needed to implement
the energy reform moves to the lower house of Congress, where
the process of voting on energy bills passed by the Senate in
the last few days has already begun.
Pena Nieto hopes that his decision to end a monopoly enjoyed
since 1938 by state oil giant Pemex will spur faster
economic growth, as well as reverse a decade of declining oil
output in Mexico, the world's 10th biggest producer of crude.
Lower house committees on Monday also passed a hydrocarbons
law at the heart of the reform that maps out the fine print of
potentially lucrative oil and gas production licenses and
contracts that will be offered to private investors.
The hydrocarbons law passed the Senate last week.
The legislation passed by the Senate, which also opens up
the electricity market, must still be complemented by bills
detailing a new energy fiscal regime and a planned wealth fund.
The lower house has been discussing those bills first, and
once approved, they will move to the Senate.
The secondary legislation passed the Senate with the backing
of Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and
lawmakers in the center-right National Action Party (PAN).
Center-left parties in the upper chamber opposed the bill.
The legislation approved on Monday provides the national
hydrocarbons commission and the energy regulatory commission
with budgetary and management autonomy as well as new powers to
supervise and sanction newly opened energy markets.
Meanwhile, two other bills passed by the Senate late on
Sunday define the administration and new transparency measures
for Pemex and national electricity utility CFE.
That legislation gives Pemex more budgetary autonomy and a
new tax structure, while gradually requiring both Pemex and CFE
to operate as competitive firms.
The energy reform ends Pemex's exclusive rights to
exploration and production as well as the CFE monopoly.
Final congressional approval of the energy secondary laws is
expected by the end of July or early August.
(Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Simon Gardner, Meredith
Mazzilli, Ken Wills and Muralikumar Anantharaman)