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Mexico, Russia eye energy trade relations

Karla Salinas | 06.09.2017

Structural reforms in the energy sector could lead to greater bilateral trade between Mexico and Russia, Mexico's president said from a regional summit.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto met in China with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a summit for the five major energy economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, or BRICs. According to the Kremlin, both sides discussed ways to improve ties on the geopolitical front and trade in the energy sector.

For Russia, Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Igor Sechin, a close Putin ally and head of Russian oil company Rosneft, were at the meeting with Mexico's president.

Trade turnover between the two countries improved 38 percent during the first half of the year, but was still relatively modest at about $2 billion. The Mexican president said he agreed with Putin's position that trade has not yet matched its full potential.

"If you allow me, I would like to highlight areas where we could engage in proactive cooperation," he said in a statement. "We are carrying out structural reforms, primarily in the energy sector, and we have private investment, and private companies that are active in the market."

The Mexican economy is expected to grow at around 2.3 percent this year and manage only a 0.1 percent gain next year.

Mexico this week hosts the second round of talks aimed at reformulating the North American Free Trade Agreement. During the first round of talks in Washington last month, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said NAFTA has "fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement."

Trade talks between the Mexican and Russian presidents also comes as members of the U.S. Congress return to Washington from summer recess and reconvene hearings aimed at probing any ties between U.S. President Donald Trump and the Kremlin.

On ties with Mexico, Putin said the relationship is "deep-rooted."

The Mexican reform program is meant to open the country up to outside oil investment for the first time since 1938, when the Mexican government took control of the country's oil industry and sidelined foreign investments. The reforms could bring in up to $415 billion in investments over the next 20 years as the country establishes links to the rest of the world.

Deregulation, meanwhile, caused gas prices to spike at the start of 2017 and brought significant public pressure on Peña Nieto.