MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador proposed on Wednesday a legal truce amid efforts to secure changes to pipeline contracts signed with Mexican and foreign companies, saying time needs to be allowed to reach a negotiated solution.
“My proposal is that there be sort of a truce in the legal process, without anyone losing their rights, so that an agreement can be sought. If there’s no agreement, then the legal process will continue,” Lopez Obrador said in his morning press conference.
“It’s better to reach an agreement than go to (arbitration), which could take a lot of time,” the leftist president said.
Lopez Obrador said he made that decision after meeting on Tuesday with the president of the Business Coordinating Council (CCE), Carlos Salazar; and the head of the Mexican Business Council (CMN), Antonio del Valle.
Salazar, Del Valle and the president’s private secretary, Alejandro Esquer, are to serve as observers in a negotiating process that will involve the participation of representatives of natural gas pipeline companies and the director of state electricity company CFE, Manuel Bartlett.
“It’s a pause. I accept it because two (private-sector) representatives in Mexico are requesting it of me and I consider them to be people of integrity who are not going to be covering up corruption,” Lopez Obrador said.
Bartlett on Tuesday defended the CFE’s decision to pursue arbitration to modify gas pipeline contracts.
“Gas pipeline contracts were awarded under the previous administration (of Enrique Peña Nieto), seven of which had not reached the operating stage,” the CFE director said in a press conference.
On Monday, the CFE filed seven preliminary arbitration claims at courts in the United Kingdom and France to annul some clauses of natural gas pipeline contracts signed with the companies Fermaca, Carso Energy, IEnova and TC Energy-TransCanada.
But Bartlett added that the companies also have agreed to take part in a separate re-negotiation process and said they are “willing to review the contracts.”
Lopez Obrador said Wednesday his administration is looking to renegotiate because the current contract terms would imply an expense of $80 billion, which in turn would translate into higher electricity costs for consumers.
“One thing is business, and another is ... theft, affecting the interests of citizens, of the nation. That’s why we’re looking for dialogue. If they’re right, we’ll have to recognize it, just as we’re asking them to recognize if there are abuses,” he said.