By RICARDO CASTILLO
USMCA Is a Done Deal
Happiness is a good trade deal. And a great Christmas gift for Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) since it affords the country a potentially secure economic future once all of the minor hurdles have been cleared.
The passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA, or T-MEC, in Spanish), which was finally approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, Dec. 19, by 385 votes in favor with 41 against, had AMLO exuberant, along with Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and the nation’s chief trade negotiator, Jesús Seade.
The treaty still has one more vote to go in Washington (possibly in April), but it is being taken for granted that the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate will approve it and set a definitive date as to when it will replace the now-almost-obsolete North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Ebrard summed up the enthusiasm shown by the AMLO administration on Friday, Dec. 20, by saying: “This is excellent news that is going to have a great impact on investments and business decision-making. Besides the technological development it will bring to Mexico, it provides a framework for the resolution of controversies.”
In Washington, President Donald Trump complained that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wanted to take credit for the USMCA passage away from him. But that led to just a minor political scuffle, and we can now say that passage of the USMCA was Trump’s Christmas gift to AMLO. How sweet it is!
Investors Warned Regarding CFE
On Saturday, Dec. 21, AMLO visited the Los Azufres thermoelectric plant in the central Mexican state of Michoacán. While there, his message to the private investors who have shown an interest in putting money into the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) under the Energy Reform put in place in 2013 by former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was loud and clear: You are both welcome and free to do so.
“We’ve spoken clearly with the business sector on the issue because they insisted that the8y wanted certainty and trust to invest, and clear rules of the game,” AMLO said. “We didn’t take half-way measures. We told them that by the end of this six-year administration, the CFE would own 56 percent of the market. while the remaining 44 percent would be in the hands of the private sector.”
AMLO’s offer came with a caveat: The investors must do well with plans and keep their commitments, because, the president said, otherwise “the CFE is prepared to meet the challenge of continuing to generate electricity to all Mexico.”
“If the private sector does not invest and produce energy,” he warned, “we will do it ourselves, because the CFE is a profitable venture.”
In a related issue, over the past few weeks, CFE Director General Manuel Bartlett Díaz has been the target of a journalist (Carlos Loret de Mola, by name) who claimed Bartlett had amassed a large fortune through corruption business dealings.
But AMLO has consistently defended Bartlett, saying he has been unfairly targeted.
“It’s evident he’s facing a campaign against him by adversaries,” the president said repeatedly about his close friend.
And to clear Bartlett’s name, AMLO ordered the Federal Public Administration Secretariat (SFP) to conduct an investigation into the matter of Bartlett’s alleged misconduct.
On Thursday, Dec. 19, AMLO announced that the investigation had been completed and had fully exonerated Bartlett of any financial wrongdoings.
Bartlett has stated that his wealth amounts to 51 million pesos and that he receives an annual income of 11 million pesos.
But some Mexican media had alleged that his real financial worth was well over 800 million pesos, including properties in the names of close family members.
Banxico Cuts Interest Rates
The governing group of Mexico’s central bank Banco de México (Banxico) decided to lower the interest rate on Thursday, Dec. 19, from 7.5 to 7.25 percent.
This is the fourth slash that Banxico has carried out during AMLO’s administration.
One year ago, the rate was at 8.25 percent, one of the highest of the world.
Still, the 7.25 rate is high compared to international interest rates.
But since the board of directors of Banxico is an autonomous group – they don’t take orders from the president – the decision is being hailed by credit cardholders while being decried by Mexican banking institutions.
False Invoicing Admitted
Mexican Treasury Secretary Arturo Herrera Gutiérrez said Friday, Dec. 20, that before the new laws chastising companies that operated partially with fake invoicing practices to avoid paying taxes go into effect, seven large corporations have approached the tax.collecting unit Tributary Service Administration (SAT) seeking to “straighten up their situation.”
Herrera said that even before going into effect, the new regulations on fake invoicing are “so powerful” that offenders are showing up to pay off past debts, which has netted the administration an extra 2 billion pesos in evaded taxes.
Previously, several business groups had complained that the AMLO administration was leading the nation into an era of “taxation terrorism,” but Herrera denied having taken any actions due to a lack of laws, which will go into effect on Jan. 1.
In the end, Herrera said, “we didn’t have to wait for the law to go into effect.”
The Treasury’s Fiscal Attorney Carlos Romero Aranda, who carried out the investigation of the delincuent companies, said that the companies approached the Treasury “because they understood the gravity and penal implications of false invoicing in order to regularize their situation” and remedy their positions by paying up in cash, before the law was implemented.
AMLO on Vacation
AMLO announced that he will taken an end-of-year vacation as of Saturday, Dec. 28, to return to work “first thing in the morning of Jan. 2.”
This will be the first official vacation that López Obrador has taken since he was sworn in as president on Dec. 1, 2018.
In the meantime, AMLO will be active over Christmas Eve, when he will deliver a message to the nation.
AMLO is expected to spend his vacation with him family in his native Palenque, Chiapas, in the south of the country.
On the day he returns to work in 2020, he is slated to meet with members of the LeBarón family, whose relatives were slaughtered in the northern Chihuahua-Sonora region in November, in order to update them as to how the investigation of that terrible tragedy is advancing.
Julio César Chávez, Jr., the controversial eldest son of the great Mexican boxing star Julio César Chávez, decided not to come out for the sixth round of boxing in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday, Dec. 20, accusing his opponent Daniel Jacobs of “dirty fighting.”
Chávez was bleeding profusely from the nose.
“He head-butted me twice and elbowed me once, and broke my nose,” Chávez said. “I couldn’t continue because I was swallowing blood.”
The audience, heavily in favor of Chávez, went into a furor when Chávez stopped fighting and both boxers had to be whisked out of Talking Stick Arena under heavy protection as fans hurled objects at them.
Regardless of complaints from “the junior,” Jacobs was declared the winner by TKO.
Sports: Monterrey Gets Third Place
Mexican team Monterrey finished in third place at the FIFA Clubs World Cup in Doha, Qatar, after defeating Saudi Arabian team Al-Hilal 4-3 in a penalty shootout.
Monterrey will now return to Mexico ,where it is playing, again, for the championship, this time against Team America.
The two home and away games for the national title were left pending due to Monterrey’s performance in Qatar.
The final games of the Mexican Soccer League will be played on Thursday, Dec. 26, at Monterrey, while the return match will be held at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on Sunday, Dec. 29 in the grand finale of the championship.
Monterrey’s third place at the FIFA Clubs World Cup is the highest ranking in history for a Mexican team.
Will they repeat as champs?