Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto held a press conference Monday detailing an unprecedented new proposal that would denationalize the country's oil industry.
The bill, which likely has the votes to pass through Mexico's congress, according to The Wall Street Journal, would clear the way for private energy companies to partner with the Mexican government to drill for oil and gas. The government's Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, currently controls all exploration and production in the country
Mexico, despite being the eighth-largest oil producing country in the world and a major exporter to the U.S., has seen production declines every year since 2004. In that time, production slid from 3.8 million barrels per day to just 2.9 million barrels per day. The country hopes bringing in private partners will be a boon to the economy, with increased competition and higher production helping to bring down prices and attract investment.
Nieto's plan, while it could benefit U.S. companies like Exxon and Chevron if the country selects them as partners, could see some pushback from nationalists, according to the WSJ; Mexico hasn't shared profits or risks with private companies since 1960. Exxon's net acreage in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico last year was 2.1 million, and Chevron produced more than 150,000 barrels of oil per day in the Gulf of Mexico in 2012, so the ability to operate in Mexican waters could represent a lucrative opportunity for both. One thing future partners can't expect is an ownership stake in any of the oil and gas they discover; instead they would be paid the cash equivalent for the energy they drill for and produce.
Nieto has not yet been president for nine months. When Nieto's predecessor, Felipe Calderon, tried a similar overhaul in 2008, thousands marched in the streets and Democratic Revolution legislators padlocked the doors of congress, camping out in the chambers in protest. The watered-down bill that resulted failed to solve Pemex's underlying problems of inefficiency and declining production.
-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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