Mexico's largest bank, Banamex, has announced an electronic commerce initiative with Microsoft Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp.

The companies are offering businesses secure, on-line electronic data interchange capabilities over the Internet, instead of the private value- added networks typically used for EDI.

"We decided to keep the benefits of EDI and to throw away what doesn't work-proprietary software and private networks," said Julio de Villasante, director of Ekonom, an e-commerce consulting company in Mexico City.

More than 4,000 companies do EDI transactions in Mexico, totaling $100 million a month. The new system will be offered to more than seven million Banamex customers.

The Banamex alliance followed moves by three major banks-Bilbao Vizcaya, Banorte, and Citibank-to offer e-commerce services with Visa International using the card industry's Secure Electronic Transaction protocol.

Banamex has said it is still concerned about what it considers "inadequate" electronic commerce legislation in Mexico. It is urging the government to accord digital signatures and invoices the same legal status as printed documents.

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