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Buttigieg to meet Mexico's president, aviation rating in the air

Published 06/07/2023, 11:14 AM
Updated 06/07/2023, 09:41 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a press conference, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 5, 2023. REUTERS/Henry Romero

By Kylie Madry and David Shepardson

MEXICO CITY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg traveled to Mexico on Wednesday to meet with the country's president and cabinet members to discuss transportation, as Mexico awaits U.S. approval to regain a coveted air safety rating.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said talks would center on his country's efforts to recover the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Category 1 rating, which would allow Mexican airlines to open new U.S. routes.

The FAA downgraded Mexico to Category 2 more than two years ago, citing safety deficiencies.

The U.S. Department of Transportation statement did not mention the rating.

Two sources with knowledge of the matter said no rating change would be announced on Wednesday and emphasized nothing will change as talks continue.

Last week, the FAA wrapped up one in a series of audits on Mexico.

"We've already complied with everything, absolutely everything," Lopez Obrador said, referring to changes laid out by the FAA to recover the Category 1 rating.

In a statement following the meeting, transport minister Jorge Nuno Lara said he had told his U.S. counterpart that Mexico had responded "100% satisfactorily" to the FAA evaluation.

Nuno Lara called this the "final audit" to recover the lost rating, implying a positive resolution.

According to the ministry, the officials also discussed progress on moving cargo operations from the capital's Benito Juarez International Airport.

Mexico has revamped its aviation standards, most recently overhauling its civil aviation law and shuffling industry officials.

The Biden administration is eager to make clear that any decision to restore Mexico's safety rating would be based on technical merits and not politics, the sources added.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a press conference, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 5, 2023. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Lopez Obrador also questioned the FAA's role in restricting Mexico's ability to operate flights: "Who are the judges? From another country. With what authority are they grading another government?"

The president has frequently chafed at what he deems outside intervention into Mexico's affairs.

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