June 29, 2019 / 2:33 PM / 6 months ago

Mexico seeks closer China business ties during testing time on trade

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico wants to deepen economic ties with China by increasing its exports and attracting more investment from the Asian country, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Saturday ahead of a visit to Beijing.

Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard speaks at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, U.S., June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Ebrard was speaking to reporters via a video link from the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, where he said that talks with other government officials had demonstrated there was growing interest in boosting trade and investment with Mexico.

This was “very clear” in the case of China, where Ebrard said he would be giving priority to expanding business ties during his visit there at the start of next week.

“What we’re interested in,” he said, “is increasing Mexico’s presence in China, Mexico’s capacity to export to China. And China’s investments in Mexico.”

Ebrard was representing Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the summit, who in a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he could not attend because there were “urgent” matters requiring his attention in Mexico.

Ebrard is due to speak to media on Tuesday in China, which exports much more to Mexico than vice versa.

Last year, according to Mexican economy ministry data, Mexico imported $83.5 billion worth of goods from China, while its exports to China were worth $7.4 billion.

Mexico sends around 80% of its exports to the United States, and is eager to sell more to other countries to reduce its economic dependence on its neighbor.

That dependence has become an increasing liability since U.S. President Donald Trump last month vowed to slap tariffs on all Mexican exports to the United States if Mexico did not do more to stem a surge in migrants heading to the United States.

During the summit, Ebrard said, Trump had told him “(the United States) had good signs that things were going well” in Mexico’s bid to cut the flow of mostly Central Americans seeking to cross the U.S. border.

Ebrard also noted India was interested in doing more business with Mexico, and that he would visit New Delhi “soon”.

Despite that, concern in business circles about the Lopez Obrador administration’s ability to attract investment grew last week when Mexican state power utility CFE said it wanted to get “fairer” terms for contracts signed under the last government.

That drew criticism from Canada, whose government voiced its concerns at the G20 about the CFE’s desire to revisit a major pipeline contract involving a Canadian firm, Mexican Finance Minister Carlos Urzua said.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

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