Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, faced with a barrage of protests, decided Friday to suspend a new series of fees and other regulations that had been placed on motorists planning to drive from U.S. territory into Mexico's interior, officials said.

Mexico's about-face underlines the president's sensitivity to any developments that could disrupt plans for increased commerce with the United States, particularly at a time when Mexican authorities are pushing for a free-trade agreement with the United States in an effort to boost their nation's moribund economy."At this time we want to have fewer regulations, fewer barriers to increased trade between the two nations," acknowledged Jose Angel Pescador Osuna, the Mexican consul general in Los Angeles.

The president's move, coming just four days after the guidelines went into place, also illustrates the growing clout of the millions of expatriate Mexican citizens residing in the United States, many of whom viewed the new fees as little more than a sanctioned shakedown.

"This is just legalized extortion," said Pablo Quiroz, a Mexican citizen who was among a group of perhaps 50 fee opponents who descended Friday on the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles.

The new guidelines, which went into effect Monday, had two basic elements. They imposed a $100 non-refundable fee for southbound motorists, to be paid at special offices set up along the northern border. In addition, motorists headed for the Mexican interior were required to pay a refundable deposit of $400 cash, or, in lieu of the $400, leave their U.S. residency documents as a guarantee that vehicles would be taken back out of Mexico.

The regulations were officially intended to cut down on the lucrative Mexican black market in non-registered vehicles, mostly from the United States.