(Reuters) – Mexico’s president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, assured private energy executives in a closed-door meeting on Thursday their contracts will not be canceled if they meet existing terms, the head of the country’s main oil producers’ association said.
Lopez Obrador, who has often expressed skepticism of private sector involvement in Mexico’s oil industry, met for the first time on Thursday with oil and gas executives, striking what was described as a diplomatic tone with them.
“The president-elect told us on various occasions that they will respect contracts so long as we obviously comply with all of the contracts’ commitments,” said Alberto de la Fuente, president of Mexico’s AMEXHI producers’ group, following the meeting with Lopez Obrador.
“We left feeling at ease that our contracts will be honored,” added De la Fuente, who also is head of Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell in Mexico.
Set to become Mexico’s first leftist president in modern history when he takes office in December, Lopez Obrador did not speak to reporters following the closed-door event.
But his designated energy minister, Rocio Nahle, confirmed the incoming administration’s support for the contracts.
“We will respect the rule of law and the agreements that have been made with the outgoing government,” Nahle said.
She said the Lopez Obrador administration also will help companies deal with any regulatory delays they face.
“We made a commitment that we will talk to the regulators, or more to the point that we will review the regulators because there is a constant complaint that they take too much time,” said Nahle.
Lopez Obrador earlier pledged to review for possible corruption the more than 100 exploration and production contracts that have been awarded under a sweeping oil opening finalized in 2014.
The pledge to address regulatory bottlenecks could cheer companies starting exploration and production ventures, some of which have criticized the slow pace of approvals.
“The whole regulatory process is difficult and you have to have a lot of patience,” said Alfredo Bejos Checa, chief executive of Grupo Diavaz, at a conference on Thursday in Acapulco.
Grupo Diavaz is a longtime service provider to Pemex and now operates fields on its own.
At the same conference, Maria Moraeus Hanssen, CEO of Germany’s DEA Deutsche Erodoel AG, singled out oil safety regulator ASEA as slow moving.
“Sometimes, we get the impression that things are not completely coordinated (among government agencies),” she said. “Processes before ASEA have been time-consuming.”