U.S. companies see “huge” opportunities in Mexico, where the government has pledged to open the state-owned energy industry to more private investment, upgrade transportation and spur telecommunications competition, according to a top official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Exxon Mobil Corp. is among a group of U.S. companies in Mexico City this week to identify investment opportunities and strengthen ties with Latin America’s second-biggest economy, said Myron Brilliant, senior vice president for international affairs at the largest U.S. business lobbying group. The delegation is meeting with lawmakers and officials from the energy, transportation and economy ministries, Brilliant said.
Mexico has the third-largest proven oil reserves in Latin America after Venezuela and Brazil, according to state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex. President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office Dec. 1, said during the campaign he would make opening Pemex to more private investment his “signature issue” as he looks to reverse production declines.
“We see huge opportunities for collaboration with Mexico, and we’d like to build on the opening that has been presented by Pena Nieto,” Brilliant said in an interview in Mexico City Monday. “Now the devil is in the details; how to pry open the door, how to modernize and update” energy production. “That means changes to Pemex, it means fundamental changes.”
Pena Nieto has pledged to send Congress a proposal in the first half of this year to boost competitiveness, though he hasn’t unveiled the specifics of the legislation.
Pena Nieto’s initiative may be the biggest energy-industry overhaul since the late President Lazaro Cardenas seized oil fields from British and U.S. companies 75 years ago. An oil reform in 2008 under then-President Felipe Calderon pushed through a bill that opened exploration and production projects to private and foreign companies for the first time since the expropriation without giving ownership or rights over the crude reserves.
Patrick McGinn, a spokesman for Irving, Texas-based Exxon, confirmed the company’s presence in this week’s delegation.
Exxon has “been in Mexico for over 100 years,” and it’s “an important country for us,” McGinn said.
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