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Mexican power bill will not lead to expropriations, minister says

MEXICO CITY, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Mexico’s government has no intention of expropriating assets from private companies, Energy Minister Rocio Nahle said on Thursday, following the publication of a contentious initiative that seeks to bolster the national power company.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador this week sent a bill to Congress that aims to give preferential access to the grid to state power utility, the Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE).

Mexico’s top business lobby, the Business Coordinating Council (CCE), panned his bill as an “indirect expropriation” which would violate international trade agreements.

Nahle, a staunch ally of the president, denied this.

“All this noise that we are going to expropriate, that we do not want intermittent energy, that electricity is going to cost more, all that is not true,” she told broadcaster Radio Formula.

Nahle and Lopez Obrador argue the last government’s liberalization of the energy sector skewed the market in favor of private firms at the public’s expense.

What is needed, they say, is to strengthen the CFE and the state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).

The CCE argued the new bill would push up energy prices and do irreparable damage to regulatory and contractual certainty. (Reporting by Adriana Barrera; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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