MEXICO CITY—Mexico's government voiced regret Tuesday over Ford's decision to scrap a new plant project following criticism from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, and said the company would pay back any expenses.

Ford's decision to cancel the $1.6 billion investment in the state of San Luis Potosi is a big blow to Mexico, which has been one of the main targets of Trump's protectionist rhetoric.

"The Mexican government regrets the decision of the Ford Motor Company to cancel the investment project in San Luis Potosi, and it has assured the return by the company of any expenditures made by the state government to facilitate this investment," the statement said.

Ford said it would instead invest $700 million over the next four years to expand its Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan to build electric and self-driving vehicles.

Trump, who takes office on January 20, has slammed U.S. firms for moving jobs to Mexico and has vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Earlier, US automaker General Motors became the latest multinational to end up in Trump's line of fire--via Twitter as usual--with the president-elect threatening to impose a tariff on GM's imports of a small number of Mexican-made Chevy Cruze cars to the US.

Mexico's economy ministry argued that investments in Mexico have helped keep jobs in the United States.

"The growth of the Ford Motor Company in North America, particularly in Mexico, is a strategy of competitiveness based on global value chains, in which North America competes with other world regions," the ministry's statement said.

"The jobs generated in Mexico have contributed to keeping manufacturing jobs in the United States that would otherwise have disappeared in the face of Asian competition," it said.

Mexico's free trade deals with various countries and proximity to the US market have made it a top destination for international automakers, turning the country into a top producer and exporter of vehicles.

But the ministry reiterated that Mexico was still in favor of a "modernization" of NAFTA that would "strengthen the competitive capacities of North America and of each of its members."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2017