Trump plans may hurt Mexico growth, affect trade: central bank chief

November 22, 2016 10:02 AM EST

Mexico's central Bank Governor Agustin Carstens speaking at an event in Mexico City, Mexico May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero


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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Uncertainty over exactly what measures Donald Trump takes as U.S. president is more likely to affect Mexican growth than tighter monetary policy, Central Bank Governor Agustin Carstens said in a local newspaper interview.

In a separate radio interview on Tuesday, Carstens also said Mexico could be facing a "more lasting" change in commercial ties with the United States after Trump threatened a major shake-up in bilateral commerce during the election campaign.

Trump stirred fears about the outlook for the Mexican economy after making threats to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement and impose tariffs on Mexican-made goods. He also vowed to build a massive wall on the border to seal off illegal immigration.

Mexico's central bank last week raised borrowing costs 50 basis points to a seven-year high of 5.25 percent in a bid to curb the risk of higher inflationary pressures sparked by a slide in the peso currency after Trump's surprise election win.

Carstens said in Tuesday's edition of paper El Financiero the central bank did not have a foreign exchange rate target in mind when it raised interest rates last week.

He added he did not believe higher rates would have a major impact on growth in Mexico.

"(Tighter monetary policy) is not the main factor that may be affecting growth, above all, it's not comparable with the uncertainty being generated by the lack of precision over the measures the President-elect Donald Trump could at some point take," he told El Financiero.

In the radio interview, Carstens said pass-through from the peso's depreciation onto prices had so far been fairly gradual. However, he noted the bank would raise rates again if necessary.

On the prospect of Mexico automatically hiking rates following a U.S. Federal Reserve rate increase, Carstens said Mexico would base its decisions on the inflation outlook.

Asked whether Mexico would seek to intervene in the markets to support the peso, Carstens said prior interventions were generally aimed at tackling temporary pressures.

"Today it's not clear we're facing a temporary shock, it's possible we're facing a change in relations between Mexico and the United States ... on trade ... that could be more lasting," he said.

Turning to threats by Trump to block remittances sent home by U.S.-based Mexican migrants to pay for the border wall, Carstens said any attempt by a U.S. government to freeze their savings would be illegal and stir up a significant dispute.

(Reporting by Dave Graham, Veronica Gomez and Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Jeffrey Benko amd W Simon)



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