U.S. ambassador appears to question wisdom of investing in Mexico

MEXICO CITY, June 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. ambassador to Mexico appeared to question whether it was a good time to invest in Latin America’s No.2 economy on Thursday, just days before a new North American trade agreement takes effect, although he later walked back the comments.

The remarks drew strong reaction on social media, as some local media outlets interpreted U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau’s remarks as a broad rebuke of the Mexican government.

“For me, an essential part of my job as ambassador is trying to fix problems when they arise, and frankly try to encourage the investment of my compatriots,” said Landau in a webcast hosted by Mexican business lobby CONCAMIN.

“But I can’t lie to them, nor can I tell them it’s an opportune time to invest in Mexico if you see very discouraging things for foreign investment. In various sectors we have obviously seen worrying things,” he said.

The United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA) trade deal, which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement, formally starts on July 1.

Landau criticized some of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s energy policies, though he did not go into any specifics.

“For me, some of the actions taken over the last few months, especially in the energy sector, have created uncertainty about the government’s promise to respect what was done in the past and not to change the rules of the game,” said Landau.

Lopez Obrador said earlier in the day he expects to reach an agreement with Spanish power company Iberdrola following reports the firm had canceled a $1.2 billion project.

Landau later took to Twitter to clarify his comments.

“It’s being reported that I told CONCAMIN this morning that this is not the right time to invest in Mexico. I didn’t say that. What I said is that investors seek certainty,” he wrote.

He added that the USMCA marks a “golden opportunity” to attract investment across the region. (Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Sam Holmes)