MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday pushed back against a U.S. complaint over his energy policy, saying his government had done nothing wrong, and even played a song to show that he was not scared of how it would play out.
The United States' request for dispute settlement talks under a regional trade deal marks an escalation of international concern over Lopez Obrador's efforts to strengthen Mexico's state energy companies at the expense of private investors.
Speaking at a regular news conference, Lopez Obrador shrugged off the controversy, saying his policies did not violate the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade pact, and promised to answer the U.S. grievances "point-by-point."
"We're acting in line with public interest, defending the Mexican people against greedy companies used to stealing," the president said after projecting on a video screen a jaunty Mexican song called "Uy, que miedo" ("Ooh, how scary").
The dispute specifically relates to measures taken by Mexico which the U.S. Trade Representative argues undermine American companies in Mexico and U.S.-produced energy in favor of Mexican state-owned power utility Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) and oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
The leftist president has said his measures benefit consumers, while critics counter they raise costs, undermine investment and are unfair to international companies.
Canada quickly said it would support the U.S. challenge, although Lopez Obrador argued the step initiated by the office the USTR was actually more about Mexican opposition to his policies than U.S. concerns.
"This is about ultra-conservative interests used to looting, to stealing," he said. "They thought they owned the country."
He also sought to lump in with his opponents advocates of renewable energy companies, which argue his policies favoring Pemex and CFE have put them at a disadvantage.
"The argument of using clean energy to do dirty business doesn't work anymore," he said.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Brendan O'Boyle; Editing by Marguerita Choy)