Mexico president-elect taps Ebrard for economy chief, peso rallies

By Anthony Esposito and Kylie Madry

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Mexican President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum on Thursday named six members of her incoming cabinet, including political heavyweight Marcelo Ebrard as economy minister, putting him in charge of trade negotiations and causing the peso to rally.

Sheinbaum also named Juan Ramon de la Fuente, former ambassador to the United Nations, to be foreign minister.

As economy minister, Ebrard will oversee the 2026 review of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade pact.

Ebrard, a former foreign minister is widely considered a business-friendly pick who successfully managed relations with the United States during his time in office, including with the administration of former President Donald Trump.

"There are no negative surprises," said Jonathan Zuloaga, economist at the Columbus consulting firm. "There's no one here who generates uncertainty about what kind of decisions they would take."

Ebrard later told journalists the USMCA review was a top priority, along with the planned ratification of a trade pact with the European Union.

He said the ministry had been charged with attracting more investment and taking advantage of "nearshoring," in which companies relocate their supply chains closer to their main markets. Ebrard suggested pharmaceutical companies could be important targets.

He will also be tasked with developing 10 industrial parks.

The Mexican peso strengthened some 0.3% against the U.S. dollar to a session high on Thursday. The peso has slid around 8% against the dollar since the June 2 election.

"The market's interpretation seems to be that Sheinbaum's cabinet are officials who have extensive technical and political capabilities," analysts at CIBanco said in a note.

SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT

Current Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena, a scientist and former ambassador, will take over as environment minister in a move that supports Sheinbaum's promise to improve Mexico's environmental policy.

Barcena stressed a shift toward sustainability and said that a pending challenge was water management nationwide, as Mexico faces historic droughts.

Rosaura Ruiz, who headed Mexico City's education, science and technology ministry while Sheinbaum was mayor of the capital, will head a newly created federal science and technology ministry.

"Mexico has a huge deficit in science and technology - we need to develop (them)," Ruiz said.

Former Mexico City Attorney General Ernestina Godoy will join as judicial adviser, while the former regional head of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, Julio Berdegue, will head the agriculture ministry.

Sheinbaum reiterated her support for the policy of outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to ban genetically modified corn for human consumption.

She has previously said current Finance Minister Rogelio Ramirez de la O will stay in his post.

Sheinbaum is set to name more cabinet members next Thursday.

The nominations on Thursday seemed to calm market jitters that have rocked Mexico since Sheinbaum and her Morena party won the election in a landslide. Morena nabbed a supermajority to pass constitutional reforms in the lower house and came close to one in the Senate.

That has increased fears that Congress could pass a controversial judicial reform proposed by Lopez Obrador, which would see judges - including on the Supreme Court - elected by popular vote.

Critics fear the reform could fundamentally alter Mexico's balance of power and facilitate the political capture of the judiciary.

"We're going to have more volatility, that's very clear to me," Zuloaga said. "From here until at least September (when Congress enters session)."

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito, Kylie Madry and Noe Torres; Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer, Sandra Maler and Rod Nickel)