Mexico Senate committee energy bill debate stretches into Monday

Sun Dec 8, 2013 11:09pm EST
 
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By Alexandra Alper and David Alire Garcia

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican Senate committees on Sunday debated an energy bill that would open up the world's 10th-biggest oil producer to private investment by allowing new types of contracts, marking the industry's most dramatic overhaul in 75 years.

The bill, announced by centrist ruling party and opposition conservative lawmakers on Saturday, would let private firms partner with ailing state oil firm Pemex PEMX.UL via profit-sharing, risk-sharing and service contracts as well as licenses in a bid to boost sagging production.

The reform, which would keep ownership of crude in state hands, is at the center of an economic reform drive that President Enrique Pena Nieto hopes will boost lagging growth in Latin America's No. 2 economy.

It is much bolder than a draft proposed by Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in August, which would have offered profit-sharing contracts and was considered too tame for attracting private firms.

Senate committee lawmakers debated the bill on Sunday, but did not wrap up speeches in time for a vote. They will resume their session on Monday. Once they sign off on the bill, it heads separately to the full Senate and lower chamber for votes.

Pena Nieto hopes to pass the reform before Christmas but lacks a majority in Congress. He needs the support of conservatives to push the bill through after the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which opposes opening the oil sector, pulled out of talks.

PRD members on Sunday called the bill "national treason" while centrist ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lawmakers and conservative opposition figures sang its praises.

"Today we have bet that we can imagine a Pemex that can go out and compete in the world," said PRI Senator David Penchyna, who heads the energy committee.   Continued...

 
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto addresses the audience during The Economist's Mexico Summit 2013 in Mexico City November 7, 2013. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo