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President Clinton's new plan to bolster the failing Mexican economy with a $20 billion emergency bailout generated applauselast week.

Unlike the original $40 million aid proposal, the new version won't have to go through Congress. While the change left multinationals feeling better about their large investments in Mexico, some expansion plans remain on hold.

Wal-Mart Stores' goal to open 12 Mexican "supercenters" and 12 Sam's Club warehouse stores this year are frozen for now.

"We're looking for favorable signs of economic growth and expansion," said Gerardo Ruiz, Wal-Mart public relations coordinator. "We'll proceed with our expansion plan when it's appropriate."

Ford Motor Co. was more encouraged by the $20 billion credit facility. "We think the Clinton administration package of financial guarantees for Mexico is needed," said James G. O'Connor, Automotive Operations' executive director of marketing.

"Such an initiative is critical to both our economies," he said. It will "help to avoid the adverse effects of a continuing Mexican crisis on U.S. exports and jobs."

Big Three rival Chrysler Corp. says it is still too early to tell if the Clinton bailout plan will help its Mexico standing. "We feel it will begin the process of stabilization sooner than if it had to go through the legislative process," Chrysler Media Relations Manager Karen Stewart said.

Chrysler experienced a small gain in its Mexican sales in the fourth quarter, Ms. Stewart said. But Chrysler sales have plunged 70% to 80% since Jan. 1.

Many U.S.-based companies are asking the Mexican government for price relief. Mexico granted Procter & Gamble Co., for one, an average 10% price increase, but the company says that's not enough. Nevertheless, most of P&G's Mexican-marketed products are manufactured locally, making for relatively stable operations south of the border.

"We don't anticipate any significant modification of our future plans, assuming there are no more dramatic changes," said Terry Loftus, P&G international public affairs spokesman.

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