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Buttigieg travels to Mexico to meet with president, aviation rating in the air

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By Kylie Madry and David Shepardson

MEXICO CITY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is traveling to Mexico to meet with the country’s president and cabinet members to discuss transportation, his office said on Wednesday, as Mexico awaits U.S. approval to regain a coveted air safety rating.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said talks would center on his country’s efforts to recover the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Category 1 rating, which would allow Mexican airlines to open new U.S. routes.

The FAA downgraded Mexico to Category 2 more than two years ago, citing safety deficiencies.

The U.S. Department of Transportation statement did not mention the rating.

Two sources with knowledge of the matter said no rating change would be announced on Wednesday and emphasized nothing will change as talks continue.

Last week, the FAA wrapped up one in a series of audits on Mexico. A Mexican government source called it the country’s “last” audit, implying a positive resolution.

“We’ve already complied with everything, absolutely everything,” Lopez Obrador said, referring to changes laid out by the FAA to recover the Category 1 rating.

Mexico has revamped its aviation standards, most recently overhauling its civil aviation law and shuffling industry officials.

The Biden administration is eager to make clear that any decision to restore Mexico’s safety rating would be based on technical merits and not politics, the sources added.

Lopez Obrador also questioned the FAA’s role in restricting Mexico’s ability to operate flights: “Who are the judges? From another country. With what authority are they grading another government?”

The president has frequently chaffed at what he deems outside intervention into Mexico’s affairs.

(Reporting by Kylie Madry in Mexico City and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Mark Porter and Richard Chang)

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