- Associated Press - Thursday, July 13, 2017

MEXICO CITY (AP) - The United States and Mexico are looking to boost energy ties as the two countries prepare for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, officials said Thursday.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who met in Mexico with his counterpart, Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, called the United States’ southern neighbor “a very, very important partner” on energy.

Joaquin Coldwell said his country plans two new pipelines to import U.S. natural gas in addition to the 17 that already exist.

Mexico’s energy sector was wholly state-run for decades until a 2013 energy overhaul allowed some private-sector activity, and Perry noted that NAFTA did not cover energy when the trade pact was implemented in 1994.

“I’m very supportive of the renegotiation,” Perry said. “To renegotiate this is good for all participants, particularly in the energy sector.”

The talks, expected to begin about a month from now, will also include Canada, NAFTA’s third partner.

Perry said he expects to start exchanging letters on NAFTA with his counterparts in the coming weeks and hopes a new trade deal will allow for a North American energy strategy that “will make the entire region a powerful energy source for the world.”

Mexico is the United States’ second-largest partner in energy trade, with 58 percent of U.S. gas exports and 40 percent of U.S. oil exports crossing the border.

President Enrique Pena Nieto’s office said in a statement that he met privately with Perry and both parties agreed to cooperate on energy security and market integration.

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