President Enrique Peña Nieto on Monday signed into law Mexico's landmark energy reform legislation and announced that his government could name as early as this week the first oil and gas fields that will be opened up to foreign investors.
"It is the moment to put the energy reform into action," Peña Nieto said in an elaborate signing ceremony at the National Palace.
He said details would be released Wednesday on the areas of oil and gas production and exploration that will remain under the purview of the state energy monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. Then, areas where Pemex can form partnerships with outside companies will be designated.
The timetable speeds up by a month or so the schedule for making the information public ahead of the first bidding round.
The new laws, which required amending the Mexican Constitution, will open up oil and gas industries in Mexico to private investment for the first time in more than seven decades.
Officials hope to attract billions of dollars in outside money and bring in the expertise and technology to reverse the country's declining oil production.
They have warned that Mexico, one of the world's top 10 producers of crude oil, could become a net importer by 2020 if exploration and retrieval are not improved. But the legislation met with bitter opposition from leftist politicians who disapprove of allowing foreign companies into the extracting of "Mexican patrimony."
The changes also permit outside investment in Mexico's inefficient electricity monopoly. Critics have said the legislation failed to address rampant corruption, especially in the huge Pemex labor union.
"The energy reform opens up a great opportunity for Mexico that we must take advantage of with complete and rapid enactment," Peña Nieto said.