Mexico Looks To Sky For Next Growth Spurt

Mexico is looking to the aerospace industry as its next big industrial gain.

MEXICO CITY - Top Mexican officials are talking up the prospects of the aerospace industry as the country's next success story.

The latest plug came from Mexican President Felipe Calderon during a speech to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Mexico on Thursday. Calderon said attracting new business is among his government's top priorities.

''The challenge that we share is to take advantage of all the opportunity ... and to make sure that the person who invests will have great earnings and so will Mexico - whether it's in aerospace, automotive, food, mining, agriculture and energy,'' Calderon said.

His mention of aerospace follows recent remarks by Economy Secretary Eduardo that Mexico has established itself as a key player on the global automotive market and is now ready to build aircraft.

According to Eduardo, plans are in the works for Bombardier to manufacture planes in Mexico as early as 2010, but the Montreal-based company has said it's not happening anytime soon.

''There's no plan in the short term to assemble aircraft there,'' Bombardier spokeswoman Sylvie Gauthier said last month in response to Sojo's statement.

Bombardier built a parts factory in the central Mexican town of Queretaro last year to reduce production costs. It is expected to hire as many as 1,800 workers in the next three years. However, Gauthier said the company still plans to assemble the planes in Canada.

Bombardier is working with Mexico to develop the aerospace industry, which must first establish the right infrastructure, build the education system and harmonize certification authorities, Gauthier said. The company is not providing a timeframe for accomplishing these goals.

In his speech, Calderon also said he wants to improve Mexico's energy sector by learning from the expertise of countries like Canada. ''We want to open the doors of co-operation on technology,'' he said.

Mexico signed an energy cooperation agreement this week with Alberta, moving one step closer to allowing private participation in the Mexican energy industry.

Calderon has rejected repeated calls for the privatization of the state-run oil industry PEMEX, but his government is considering allowing the private sector to play a limited role as the oil giant faces the possibility of running out of reserves in the next decade.

Calderon, who calls himself the ''Jobs President,'' stressed the importance of stimulating job creation to stop Mexicans from heading to the United States seeking work.

Of Mexico's work force of 44 million, only 26 million earn regular wages. Some 16 million are underpaid, and the rest are idle, according to a recent media report.

There are some 1,700 Canadian companies operating in Mexico.