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Wednesday, 19 February 2014 | MYT 11:11 AM

Mexico reforms will boost foreign investment -minister

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A string of recent reforms should help lift foreign direct investment in Mexico to between $30 billion (17 billion pounds) and $40 billion per year by 2016, the country's economy minister said on Tuesday.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto pushed major telecommunications, banking and energy legislation through the country's divided Congress last year.

Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said the reforms would help spur a higher average level of investment in the country.

"We see foreign investment in the range from 30- to 40 billion in the second part of Pena Nieto's term," Guajardo told Reuters in a telephone interview. Pena took office at the end of 2012 and his term runs until December 2018.

"I think it will be a mixture of not only investment in energy and telecom, but also investment attracted to new opportunities in manufacturing," Guajardo said.

Last year's reforms opened the state-run energy sector to private investment while the telecom reform seeks to promote competition in an industry that is dominated by the companies of Carlos Slim, one of the world's richest men.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Mexico has averaged $23 billion between 2000 and 2012, according to data on the economy ministry website.

Guajardo said FDI reached a record of nearly $35 billion last year, helped by the purchase of Mexican brewer Modelo by Belgian-based beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev. He expects FDI in 2014 to be no less than $22 billion.

The government still needs to submit so-called secondary legislation to lawmakers that will flesh out the energy and telecom reforms.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Pena Nieto will meet in Mexico at a summit on Wednesday to discuss commerce and other economic issues.

NAFTA helped spur greater foreign investment in Mexico as manufacturers built up factories to take advantage of lower labour costs in Latin America's second-biggest economy and its proximity to the world's biggest economy.

(Reporting by Adriana Barrera, Michael O'Boyle and Simon Gardner; Editing by Ken Wills)


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