May 6, 2020 / 2:35 AM / a month ago

Mexico auto industry readies for possible reopening in coming weeks

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s government and the auto industry have drafted protocols to prepare for an easing of coronavirus lockdown measures, a lobby group said on Tuesday, as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador signaled some factories could open in coming weeks.

Working with officials, three of Mexico’s auto-sector lobbies have drawn up guidelines that companies should follow as a prelude to being able to relaunch production, according to an industry document published on Tuesday.

The auto industry is the backbone of Mexico’s manufacturing sector and is heavily integrated with the rest of North America.

U.S. business leaders and politicians have pushed their government to press Mexico to synchronize its restart with the United States so as not to disrupt key supply chains.

Detroit automakers could restart vehicle production in the United States on May 18, after a major labor union gave the green light on Tuesday.

No date has yet been set for reopening Mexico’s auto sector, although Lopez Obrador aims to relax containment measures in some regions from May 17 and nationwide at the end of the month.

The president said on Tuesday that Mexico would gradually reopen construction sites, mines, auto factories and then tourist hot spots as the curbs are eased in line with medical advice.

Lopez Obrador reiterated the possibility of a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. The Mexican leader has proposed June or July and said it could broach the reopening of vital sectors.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the spearhead of Mexico’s anti-coronavirus drive, told Reuters no decision had yet been taken on when to restart the car industry.

He said regions that were candidates to reopen should have declining infections after high transmission levels, plus available capacity in hospitals in case there is a resurgence.

Mexican auto parts lobby INA said it, the automakers association AMIA and truckmaking group ANPACT had outlined measures with the government to be ready once the go-ahead came.

The guidelines envisage companies carrying out self-assessments of their compliance with safety measures set out by the government for exiting the lockdown, an INA document showed.

In addition, they foresee staff at companies completing government courses online to demonstrate understanding of how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The auto parts lobby and government officials will hold a webinar on Friday to detail the steps required of firms before reopening, INA said.

The Economy Ministry, one of the departments due to take part in the webinar, did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Additional reporting by Sharay Angulo; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Peter Cooney

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