Auto factories to reopen with virus safeguards, says Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) – The Mexican government said on Friday it plans to reopen automotive factories in conjunction with the United States (US) and Canada.

The Foreign Relations Department said in a statement that the details of the plan would be released in the coming days. The department said health safeguards would be in place to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, which caused Mexico to order the closure of non-essential plants several weeks ago.

“The Mexican government will be emphatic about health protection and will ensure that the reopening will be orderly, gradual and cautious,” the statement said.

The announcement came three days after the US government launched a campaign to get Mexico to reopen plants, suggesting the supply chain of the North American free trade zone could be permanently affected if they didn’t resume production.

Mexico’s border assembly plants are key to the US supply chain, including defence contractors, and more employees at the facilities have staged walkouts and protests because of fears over the coronavirus.

Christopher Landau, the US ambassador to Mexico, launched a Twitter campaign on Tuesday urging efforts to keep supply chains intact.

He expressed concern about virus lockdowns damaging the flow of parts and goods that feed businesses in the US, Mexico and Canada and warned that “if we do not coordinate our response, these chains can evaporate”.

“There are risks everywhere, but we don’t all stay at home for fear we are going to get in a car accident,” Landau wrote. “The destruction of the economy is also a health threat.”

US undersecretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment Ellen Lord had voiced similar concerns on Monday in Washington.

“We are seeing impacts on the industrial base by several pockets of closure internationally.

Particularly of note is Mexico, where we have a group of companies that are impacting many of our major primes,” she said.