(Adds background on independent power producer contracts)
MEXICO CITY, March 26 (Reuters) - Mexico’s president on Friday invited the heads of some of the country’s most prominent companies to defend energy policies of his predecessors, which he says give the private sector preferential treatment.
“Big business corporations and retail chains pay lower rates than consumers for household consumption... and we believe those subsidies paid with the people’s money should disappear,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told a regular news conference.
The president and executives of state-owned power company, the Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE), have criticized energy laws enacted by previous administrations, as well as the companies benefiting from those policies. Lopez Obrador characterized the lower prices paid by companies as a state-sponsored subsidy and called them an “injustice.”
But, Lopez Obrador added, it was only fair that the beneficiaries of former President Enrique Pena Nieto’s policies have the right to reply.
He invited the bosses of Walmart’s Mexico unit (Walmex) , conglomerate Femsa, breadmaker Grupo Bimbo, and Spain’s Iberdrola to debate the existing laws at the presidential palace in Mexico City, without specifying a time.
The so-called independent power producer contracts were signed by companies including Bimbo and Walmart and predate the Peña Nieto administration. They were designed to offer discounts on long-term power supply if companies invested in renewable power generation.
Lopez Obrador also invited representatives of local newspapers Reforma and El Universal, as well as Spain’s El Pais to come to the debate, arguing the media has taken the side of the private sector against his energy policies.
Last week, a Mexican court ordered a definitive suspension of Lopez Obrador’s contentious new electricity law, which seeks to strengthen CFE. The president called for the Supreme Court to settle the matter.
Lopez Obrador noted that Bimbo and Walmex both filed legal challenges against the law. He described the appeals as an effort to maintain favorable terms from prior regulation.
Walmex declined to comment. Femsa and Bimbo did not immediately respond to requests for comment. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito and David Alire Garcia; writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Aurora Ellis, Rosalba O’Brien and David Gregorio)