By Sharay Angulo
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A group representing U.S. manufacturers on Wednesday told Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that an economic shutdown due to the novel coronavirus could weaken North America’s response to the pandemic.
U.S. business lobbies have been pressuring Lopez Obrador to label certain industries “essential” so that health emergency measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus in Mexico do not halt key operations on both sides of the border.
“At a time when we need to ramp up the production of personal protective equipment, lifesaving equipment and medicines, we cannot afford to have any of these critical supply chains shut down,” the National Association of Manufacturers, the group representing U.S. companies, said in a letter to the president.
The economies of Canada, Mexico and the United States are deeply integrated after decades under the North American Free Trade Agreement and its recent successor, with manufacturers used to moving parts and products seamlessly across borders.
“Our health care sectors depend on the many products that we make — from medicines, sanitation supplies and inputs used to produce respirators and masks to the grains used to make bread and critical parts that ensure trucks can deliver groceries,” the group said.
The Mexican government did not immediately reply to a request for comment. It has previously said its decisions to close certain industries were taken to protect the health of workers.
Mexico is expected to enter a severe stage of the epidemic in coming weeks, and health officials may deem it necessary to keep the economy in shutdown while the United States is starting to open up.
However, last week, Lopez Obrador said automakers in Mexico would be allowed to reopen their operations shortly after plants restart in the United State to avoid supply disruptions.
The association also urged Lopez Obrador to issue guidance on what industries are considered essential and critical, adopting “the U.S. CISA guidance, as a baseline, to the maximum extent possible,” referring to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.
The United States is the world’s worst-affected country by the pandemic, and its coronavirus death toll has topped 30,000, according to a Reuters tally. Fatalities have doubled in just a week and set a record single-day increase for the second day in a row.
So far, Mexico has registered 5,399 cases and 406 deaths, although a health ministry official said last week that there could be 26,000 cases in the country that have not been registered.
(Reporting by Sharay Angulo; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Leslie Adler)