MEXICO CITY, Aug. 13, 1992 (UPI) -- Mexican businessmen saw possible access to technology, new markets and foreign investment in a generally cautious reaction to completion of the final draft of a North American Free Trade Agreement.
Even as they were eyeing open markets to the north Wednesday, many Mexican businessmen said it was impossible to comment before the final draft, finished in Washington Tuesday after 20 months of arduous talks, was made public.
''We don't really have the final draft in our hands,'' said Armando Soto, director of the Mexican Association of Automobile Distributors. ''We'll wait for a document analyzing what it means to distributors'' before talking.
The reaction by Soto, whose industry is expected to be one of those most affected if the document is approved by legislatures in the three countries, was typical of the guarded approach taken by Mexican businessmen.
The American Chamber of Commerce, which represents 85 percent of all U.S. investment south of the Rio Grande, welcomed the conclusion of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, talks.
A statement by the chamber said, ''Although the specifics of the agreement are not yet available and therefore cannot be commented upon, the Chamber is pleased that NAFTA, in addition to eliminating barriers to U.S. exports, addresses such issues as intellectual property rights, financial services and investment.''
Financiers at the Mexican stock exchange, or Bolsa de Valores as it is known in Spanish, also rubbed their hands at the prospect of more foreign capital.
The agreement will boost the financial sector by encouraging foreign investment, stock market President Manuel Robleda said. Under the agreement, Mexico's closed financial system will be phased out by the year 2000.
''This act can be considered another link in the chain of integration,'' he said. ''The Mexican Stock Market has prepared with great clarity and precision in preparation for this new turn.''
The country's investment firms and brokerage houses are gearing up to compete on a world market and the already modern Bolsa will modernize even more to become a major financial market in the future, he said.
''We are able to say that our competitive position is solid at the present time,'' he said. ''We are confident that this process will be favorable for the future of Mexico...A new business outlook is blossoming.''
The Bolsa was hit hard in the last few weeks by rumors that the talks were faltering as well as the anti-free-trade stance of former undeclared U.S. presidential candidate Ross Perot.
On Wednesday it finished up 9.94 points, just over 0.5 percent, in what was a much less than expected increase.
Hector Carlos Santillan, president of the Mexican Employers Confederation, said the agreement would give small- and medium-sized businesses in Mexico access to more advanced U.S. technology.
Santillan said the private sector in Mexico was firmly behind the agreement because it would bring new investment opportunities.
Vicente Gutierrez Camposeco, president of the Mexican Chamber of Commerce Federation, said the pact would pressure Mexican labor to produce higher quality products.
''We will be forming strategic alliances with foreign businesses,'' he said, because of the need for stronger and more competitive businesses under free trade.
Armando Monsalbo, 43, manager of La Unica tortilla makers, saw export possibilities for his small company.
''Above all there will be opportunities along the border because of the large Mexican population there, especially in San Diego and Texas,'' said the 20-year veteran tortilla maker.
Selling to the United States would double his profits, he said.
''The thing is, they're not accustomed to tortillas but once the market is opened up this will change.''
Average citizens appeared to be more concerned their daily life than free trade.
Despite headlines blaring from newstands and an early morning broadcast to the nation by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, many Mexicans knew little about the agreement that would make their country part of the world's largest free-trade bloc.
Despite the appearance of the president on every televison channel at 6:30 a.m. and repeated showings thereafter to announce the conclusion of a free-trade agreement among Mexico, the United States and Canada, few Mexicans hurrying to work had time to think about the historic news.
Not one person out of a dozen questioned saw the speech, and only a few knew the talks had been concluded.
''I haven't been paying much attention to it,'' said Claudia Vicario, 24, as she rushed to apply for a job at a candy store. ''I hope it's something good though.''
Everardo Gonzalez, 31, said it was another treaty making Mexico subservient to the United States and leaving it with the lowest paid jobs.
''I don't watch the news or read the papers, it really doesn't interest me,'' Gonzalez said. ''I think the U.S. will benefit more because of cheap labor here...The lower wages here mean we will get more jobs but that the U.S. will take all the skilled engineers and technicians there.''
As 45-year-old Virgilio Roja cleaned shoes, he said he was anxious to learn more about the agreement but had difficulty because he couldn't read: ''To be honest, I know nothing about it.''
Newspapers in the capital used bold black headlines screaming ''FTA, ready,'' and ''Negotiations concluded.''
But to most, it was just another smoggy day in the biggest city in the world.
Two women in their mid-30s looked blankly then giggled: Didn't see the speech, don't know anything about it, in a hurry to get to work. Bye.
''I don't really know what it'll mean to each person,'' Maria Elena Nuna said. ''Really, I'm not sure what it entails.''
To be sure, there were others who knew more.
''Europe has done it, why can't we do it,'' said Daniel Ramirez, 41, who works for the Trade Ministry and seemed to be in a better position to comment than most. ''There's little work here at the moment. Now there will be more people willing to invest (from abroad), more sources. Mexico needs capital.''