By Ted Hesson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. companies plan to invest $40 billion in Mexico between now and 2024, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told U.S. and Mexican executives on Wednesday in a meeting aimed at quelling concerns over the country's investment climate. Billions of dollars in foreign investment in Mexico have been held up by disputes between companies and the government as Lopez Obrador tightens state control of the energy market.
Mexican billionaire magnate Carlos Slim, who was at the breakfast event, said there was an urgent need for large investments to help reduce the country's import dependency.
"The president's position was very positive in this sense, of needing to facilitate foreign and Mexican investment," Slim told reporters after the meeting. Mexican officials had previously said the talks with business leaders, a day after Lopez Obrador met with U.S. President Joe Biden, could deliver progress on a raft of pending investments in Mexico by U.S. energy companies.
The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico said last month that Mexico and the United States are working through disputes involving U.S. companies worth some $30 billion. It was not immediately clear if breakthroughs had been made on energy issues, but two executives taking part said the talks had generated optimism, particularly on the prospect of bringing industrial capacity back to North America. Lopez Obrador on Tuesday told Biden that Mexico was ready to work with the United States to secure energy supplies and promote the economic integration of North America. Mexican Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier, who was also at the breakfast, said on Twitter Lopez Obrador noted he had come to listen to energy companies, including Sempra Energy. Other U.S. firms attending included New Fortress Energy, which has major investments planned in Mexico, and Talos Energy, which is working with Mexican state oil firm Pemex, a schedule seen by Reuters showed.
(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Daina Beth Solomon, Dave Graham and Brendan O'Boyle in Mexico City; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Josie Kao and Stephen Coates)