Mexico's president pushes back against U.S. lawmakers' energy policy complaints

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Saturday pushed back against 43 U.S. lawmakers who this week complained in a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump that Mexico’s energy policies were hurting U.S. companies.

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador waves during a meeting with relatives of the 65 miners who died during an explosion at Pasta de Conchos coal mine, in San Juan de Sabinas, Mexico October 23, 2020. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

Lopez Obrador has sought to bolster state-owned energy companies, especially oil giant Pemex, since assuming power on Dec. 2018. But industry figures say this has come at the expense of private companies and led to cancellation of contracts.

On Thursday, 43 lawmakers from both sides of Congress wrote to Trump saying Lopez Obrador’s government is threatening U.S. energy companies’ investments and market access, as well as undermining a regional trade deal.

Lopez Obrador, referring to the letter, said that in the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement there were two paragraphs that talk about Mexico’s “absolute, sovereign right” to decide its energy policy.

“With much respect, in this matter, we have not signed any agreement with the government of the United States or Canada,” Lopez Obrador said during a tour of northern Mexico.

Negotiated at the behest of Trump, the USMCA from July replaced the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Lopez Obrador’s government has sought to roll back energy reforms put in place by his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto.

The leftist leader argues that past governments fronted by corrupt politicians skewed the Mexican energy market in favor of private interests at the expense of the public.

But private companies say the government’s approach has seen it renege on contracts, with projects having to be frozen or cancelled even when they are near completion.

Energy companies believe their contracts were covered by pre-existing agreements and are preparing litigation against Mexico, according to lawyers and industry sources.

Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Daniel Wallis