A message, and a tone, for each audience. Andrés Manuel López Obrador addresses Mexicans every morning from his morning press conferences. In those appearances, he privileges the statements that speak to his voters and to the rank and file of Morena, he praises the public sector, charges against his political opponents and frequently criticizes representatives of the private initiative. But the president also meets, periodically, with the big businessmen. On those occasions, he always tries to deliver reassuring messages. So try to speak to the markets. This Thursday he has done it again with great managers and owners, exhibiting harmony and celebrating the centrality of private investment four days after the elections.
The president met with members of the Mexican Business Council, including Carlos Slim, from Grupo Carso; Emilio Azcárraga, president of Televisa; Laura Díaz Barroso, at the head of Santander México; Daniel Servitje, CEO of Grupo Bimbo, or Claudio X. González, from Kimberly-Clark. “It was a very good meeting,” said López Obrador. “The desire, the will, to work together, to promote private investment, which is fundamental, was reaffirmed. The country cannot be developed only with public investment, private investment is required and a very good agreement was reached ”, he added in statements to the press after leaving the meeting, held at the Kaluz Museum, in the historic center from Mexico City. It did not detail, however, the terms of that agreement.
“It was a friendly meeting,” insisted the president, who went on to assure that during “no difference, no confrontation” emerged. “It was all in harmony, I am very grateful to the businessmen of the country who are helping us to move forward together, that Mexico continues to be the vanguard in world development.” His words not only contrast with the silence that large businessmen usually keep about their relationship with the Government, but also occur in a context of economic crisis, accelerated by the covid-19 pandemic, which has opened the door to the exit of capital, especially foreigners.
Last March, during the last banking convention, López Obrador launched another message that sought to reassure those responsible for the financial entities that operate in Mexico. “We are in favor of business,” he said at the time, while the electricity reform and the hydrocarbon law had set off all the alarms in the productive sectors. These initiatives, approved by the ruling majority in Congress despite having an impact on private investment, are now paralyzed in the courts. However, the Executive has not parked them and is determined to defend them until the end of the period, with a formula that, he assures, does not renounce to strengthen two state companies, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and Pemex, without prejudice of individuals.
This Thursday’s meeting is also especially significant because it was held days after the federal and local elections that mark the middle of the six-year term, they have expanded the territorial power of Morena, but have put a ceiling on his legislative room for maneuver. Although the president has a simple majority with his allies from the Green Party and the Labor Party, he will need to negotiate, not only future budgets, but other economic measures, if he wants to reach a broad consensus.
The economy has, in fact, been configured as the Government’s priority once this electoral process has concluded. First, the president accelerated the change in the Secretary of Finance, nominating the current head, Arturo Herrera, as the next governor of the Bank of Mexico, and appointing Rogelio Ramírez de la O, who has been advising him for decades, as his substitute. And secondly, it seeks to offer a photograph of proximity to the great Mexican capital.
This image collides with the constant attacks against foreign investors, for example in the electricity sector, which have already discouraged their presence in the country, as in the case of Iberdrola. To this they add some macroeconomic variables that are still worrying despite the growth forecasts. Mexico’s Gross Domestic Product plummeted 8.5% last year, a drop never recorded since the Great Recession. However, López Obrador refuses to undertake a tax reform that opens the door to higher taxes. He reiterated it this Thursday, as he did on Wednesday: “The most important thing is that we have fulfilled our commitment not to increase the price of energy, electricity, gasoline, and diesel. We have complied by not increasing taxes ”. And this declaration of intent, addressed to his voters, also seeks, according to the president, to reassure businessmen.
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