The United States has raised the tone on the electrical reform of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The visit this Wednesday of the White House’s special envoy for climate change, John Kerry, has resulted in a first message of concern about the Mexican government’s plans for the electricity sector, one of the great reforms on López Obrador’s agenda . In a brief joint press conference with Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, Kerry pointed out that what the United States wants is “to work with Mexico to strengthen the possibility of the market being open and competitive.” Kerry’s remarks come on top of a statement released Tuesday night by the US Embassy that highlighted “concern about Mexico’s current energy sector proposal.”
Both statements represent a turn with the positions shown last week. The Joe Biden Administration had softened the tone after Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s visit to Mexico ended sourly, with the accent on the disagreements that are rampant in Washington. The objective of the strategy is to achieve “fair and equal” treatment, under equal conditions, for US businessmen in the energy sector and that there are no breaches of the T-MEC trade agreement between the two countries and Canada.
Ambassador Ken Salazar stepped forward with public support for López Obrador’s plans, opting to play the diplomacy card to prevent a possible approval of the electricity reform from having repercussions on his interests, that is, his investments and his commitment to renewable sources. With the electricity reform, President López Obrador seeks to dismantle the current model and grant a State company —the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE)— the majority management of the market. A week later, Ambassador Salazar’s speech has hardened: “Promoting the use of dirtier, outdated and more expensive technologies over efficient renewable alternatives would put both consumers and the economy in general at a disadvantage.”
The changes to the new energy map will be the next battle in Congress, where the ruling Morena party does not have enough numbers to promote the constitutional reform that is required for its approval, two thirds of the legislative power. However, it is not yet ruled out that a part of the PRI caucus ends up supporting the legal change and that is why all the affected actors, including the United States, are preparing for that scenario.
The message of concern sent by Kerry, who will also meet with López Obrador throughout the day, was nuanced with a mention of respect for the sovereignty of Mexico, one of the mantras of the Obrador government. “I know that the President has begun to make some reforms that are important to him and his country,” said the White House envoy. Kerry’s trip is the second visit the veteran Democratic leader has made in less than four months. During the first, in October, he applauded the environmental “leadership” of the Fourth Transformation for ideas such as the reforestation of large areas of the south of the country, with which López Obrador tries to alleviate migratory flows.
In addition to the background related to the electricity reform, the visit has as its context the agreements sealed at the end of the year at the summit of North American leaders with the focus on clean sources, favorable conditions for investment and the fight against pollution from methane gas. “Mexico is blessed with assets that other countries don’t have, great sun, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and also fossil fuels,” Kerry noted. “We have the opportunity to work together to lead this transformation that will benefit all citizens,” she added.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.