Mexican president speaks to Tesla’s Musk, investment in focus

MEXICO CITY, Feb 27 (Reuters) – President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador held a call on Monday morning with Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk, two officials said, after the Mexican leader revealed he would be talking to the “owner” of the electric vehicle maker.

The discussions around Tesla have become a major test of whether Lopez Obrador can set the terms for major investments in Mexico in pursuit of a policy of resource nationalism which has persistently stirred misgivings among business groups.

Lopez Obrador mentioned the call as he was finishing a regular morning news conference, without explaining precisely if he meant Musk, who is the company’s largest shareholder.

Two Mexican officials confirmed the president was referring to Musk. One of them said details of the call would be given on Tuesday, echoing remarks made by Lopez Obrador. Tesla did not reply to a request for comment from Reuters.

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The call was announced after Lopez Obrador said on Friday Tesla would be denied permits to build a plant in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, where the company has been considering investing, if water is scarce in the arid region.

The comments last week by the leftist Lopez Obrador were the strongest sign yet that his concerns over water supply could become a deal-breaker for Tesla’s plans in Nuevo Leon, an opposition-run state on the U.S.-Mexico border.

After Monday’s call, one of the officials said Nuevo Leon was still in the running, and that the Mexican government and Tesla were “90 percent” of the way toward reaching agreement.

The other official expressed certainty that Tesla would end up coming to Mexico, whose government has also said the firm is considering investing near a new Mexico City airport.

Reporting by Dave Graham and Diego Ore; Editing by Brendan O’Boyle and Sandra Maler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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