Mexico’s AMLO met with Canada pension giant amid energy feud

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said problems with four Canadian companies over his nationalist energy policy are resolved, after meeting with them Wednesday.

The policy, which favors the country’s state-run electric utility over private renewable energy firms, has raised concerns among foreign investors and Mexico’s partners in the revised North American free-trade agreement.

The Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec, Canada’s second-largest pension fund, confirmed a meeting was held with Lopez Obrador, but didn’t provide any further details. The other companies present at the meeting in Mexico City were ATCO Ltd., Canadian Solar Inc. and Northland Power Inc., according to a person familiar with the discussions. 

“We want to reach an agreement,” AMLO, as the Mexican leader is known, said at his daily briefing Thursday morning. “I personally, with the economic cabinet, attended to the four Canadian companies and we resolved the four problems, without any issues, that had to do with the electricity sector.”

There’s no timeline yet for implementing the agreed solutions, the person familiar said. AMLO asked his team to resolve issues over self-supply electricity contracts and the lack of approved permits to allow energy connections for new projects.

In addition to AMLO, Finance Minister Rogelio Ramirez de la O, Economy Minister Raquel Buenrostro, Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard and Manuel Bartlett, director of Mexico’s electric utility, Comision Federal de Electricidad, were present for the talks, the person said.

Mexico’s president extended an olive branch to the companies after he hosted a summit last week with US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Both countries are weighing whether to seek arbitration over the energy policy.

At a press conference before returning to Canada, Trudeau said he had “very direct conversations” with AMLO about the issue, and that he was optimistic company complaints would be heard and addressed. 

The Caisse, a C$392 billion ($290 billion) fund, had C$6 billion in assets in Mexico as of the end of 2021 and has partnered with CKD Infraestructura México, a consortium of institutional investors, according to its website. In 2017, the Caisse and CKD acquired 80% of Mexican wind and solar assets from Enel Green Power SpA for a total investment of $1.35 billion.

ATCO won an arbitration case against the Mexican electric utility in 2021 over a canceled contract to build a natural gas pipeline. Canadian Solar and Northland, meanwhile, have renewable energy investments in the country. Representatives for the three companies didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Lopez Obrador also repeated in his briefing that there are two Canadian mining companies with concerns about their ability to operate in Mexico, due to extortion. “They’re right. They’re extorted in Guerrero by criminal groups,” he said, referring to the Pacific Coast state that includes Acapulco.  

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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