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Reforms uplifting spirits in Mexico

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Mexico's state oil monopoly is no more, an early target of reforms. (Source: CNN) Mexico's state oil monopoly is no more, an early target of reforms. (Source: CNN)

ATLIXCO, MEXICO (CNN) - Mexico has been through a lot since NAFTA came into force in 1994. Now the government is moving fast to try and modernize the economy, sealing an historic moment for Mexico.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has signed a bill ending the 75-year-old state oil monopoly.

The aim is to attract foreign capital and expertise to exploit hard to reach reserves.

"This will allow Mexico to generate more energy," he said recently. "It will make it more efficient and that will increase the competitiveness of our country."

In recognition of this and other ambitious reforms, Mexico this month became only the second country in Latin America to receive an A-grade credit rating from Moodys.

According to the government, the energy reform alone will add 2.5 million jobs by 2025.

It's a reform being closely watched north of the border as well.

"Everyone who came over here illegally looking for a job to take care of their family is going back home. So it's a fascinating change in immigration policy," said Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Illegal immigration has already been declining. The Pew Institute estimates net migration from Mexico is now at zero, or less.

In the town of Atlixco, about a two-hour drive from Mexico City, since the 1980s it has seen many of its residents leave the country. Most people here have a relative who lives in the United States.

In the square there is generally a positive mood toward the energy law.

"It's going to have a big economic impact," a student says. "It's a great initiative from the president."

But some are still skeptical.

"It's good for rich people," a woman said. "But for people with less resources, it's just lies. You see it already with small businesses, they have to pay more tax."

Atlixco's mayor says the number of migrants has already fallen dramatically - from 2,000 a year to about 200.

He says the energy law will accelerate that trend.

"Atlixco is going to be one of the first places that will feel the transformation - job creation will considerably reduce migration," said Mayor Ricardo Camacho.

Some analysts say it's not just the shift in energy policy at work.

"It's NAFTA that was implemented 20 years ago finally having the impact we were hoping for," said Christopher Wilson of the Wilson Institute. "It's the U.S. economy, which has downturned. It's increased border security. And all of these added up mean Mexico is not a sending country to the United States."

Mexico's reforms have sparked renewed optimism in the country after a year of slow growth.

Residents of Atlixco may have to wait to see the real benefits.

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