Mexico eyes agreement to end virus-induced disruptions to U.S.-Mexico supply chains

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday he expected an agreement to enable industrial supply chains linking the United States and Mexico to begin operating normally again pending a review by authorities.

Operating restrictions on businesses designated non-essential by Mexico’s government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have caused disruptions to supply chains and sparked calls from business lobbies to review them.

Tensions have been fanned by a spate of suspected coronavirus deaths among workers for U.S. companies operating along the border in Mexico that have triggered protests.

On Wednesday, the top U.S. manufacturing association for the second time this month urged Lopez Obrador to bring Mexico into line with U.S. guidelines for industry in a letter that was signed by dozens of top executives.

Speaking at a regular government news conference, Lopez Obrador said Mexico was working on the issue, which is of pressing concern to industries such as automakers.

“In due course there will be an agreement, when they open, and we’ve pledged, above all with Mexican businesses, to analyze these openings so we can gradually return to operating as normal on the border,” the president told reporters.

He did not indicate how long the process might take.

Lopez Obrador said the government was reviewing the matter in the context of the entry into force of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade deal due to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.

Some U.S. states are pressing to ease coronavirus restrictions to restart their economies. But Mexico has only just entered its highest phase of alert due to a growing number of coronavirus cases.

Reporting by Raul Cortes; Editing by Tom Brown