Mexico has been a member of the World Trade Organization since its founding on 1 January 1995, and ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement on 26 July 2016. However, it is not a party to the WTO’s plurilateral Agreement on Government Procurement nor the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft. Mexico joined the WTO’s predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), in 1986.
Mexico has signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with 50 countries, including Bolivia (ACE 66), Chile (ACE 41), Colombia, Israel, Japan, Peru (ACE 67), Uruguay (ACE 60) and the United Kingdom (signed but not in force), and with Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) and the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). It is a party to the US–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP – with Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam, pending Chile, Brunei, Peru and Malaysia), the Pacific Alliance (with Colombia, Chile and Peru) and a bilateral FTA with the EU. It has also signed agreements for the promotion and reciprocal protection of investment with several countries, and is part of regional agreements under the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI).
Mexico has also signed the following framework or preferential trade agreements:
Aside from the FTAs noted in 1.2 Free Trade Agreements, Mexico does not participate in other preferential arrangements such as the Generalised System of Preferences.
In April 2020, Mexico and the European Union concluded negotiations for an updated FTA to replace the existing bilateral agreement from 2000. The new agreement must now be approved by the European Council and the European Parliament before it can enter into force. It is unclear when this will occur, although Mexican officials have expressed hope that the EU will complete its ratification process by the end of 2022. The Mexican Senate must also ratify the agreement. Once the EU has ratified the agreement, Mexico is expected to commence its ratification process quickly.
In May 2022, the UK and Mexico formally launched negotiations on a new bilateral FTA, which they are seeking to conclude within two years. In the meantime, bilateral trade relations will be governed by the UK–Mexico Continuity Agreement, which the parties signed in December 2020 to minimise trade disruption following the UK’s departure from the EU.
Mexico is participating in plurilateral negotiations on digital trade with 85 other WTO members under the auspices of the Joint Statement Initiative on Electronic Commerce. These negotiations are unlikely to conclude in the near future, given divergent views on data flow and localisation issues, but some participants hope they can be concluded by the time of the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference.
On 23 June 2022, Korea and the Pacific Alliance member states (ie, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru) formally launched negotiations for an FTA (“K-PAFTA”), which will be a “new generation” trade agreement covering not only traditional core chapters regulating market access for goods, rules of origin, intellectual property, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, investment, transparency, competition, trade in services and public procurement, but also disciplines in new areas. In addition, Mexico and Korea launched bilateral FTA negotiations in March 2022, after several failed attempts since 2007. Mexico and Korea are expected to negotiate the elimination of tariffs on at least 90% of tariff lines, with each party excluding sensitive products from the tariff liberalisation schedule.
Issues related to the implementation and enforcement of the USMCA have played a prominent role in Mexico’s trade agenda over the past year, with the most notable developments being as follows.
In the coming months, Mexico will participate in consultations and negotiations with several countries that are seeking to accede to the CPTPP, of which Mexico is an original signatory. Most notably, China submitted its formal request to join the CPTPP on 16 September 2021, and the CPTPP parties must now decide by consensus whether to commence negotiations with China over the terms and conditions of its accession. This issue is certain to be the subject of intense deliberations among stakeholders in Mexico, as well as between Mexico and other CPTPP parties. The CPTPP parties also recently launched formal negotiations with the UK on the terms and conditions of its accession to the CPTPP, and this process will entail negotiations on both a plurilateral basis and a bilateral basis between the UK and Mexico.
Trade relations with the United States, including the implementation and enforcement of the USMCA, will remain at the top of Mexico’s trade agenda over the coming year. The USMCA dispute settlement cases involving automotive rules of origin and energy policies will be watched closely by stakeholders throughout the region. In addition, Mexico’s implementation of the labour reforms required by the USMCA will continue to be a focal point of its discussions with US trade officials, who have identified Mexico’s labour commitments as a top enforcement priority.
Also, on the sixth anniversary of the entry into force of the USMCA (1 July 2026), the parties will meet to conduct a “joint review” of the operation of the Agreement, review “any recommendations for action submitted by a party”, and “decide on any appropriate actions” with respect to the USMCA. As part of the review, each party “shall confirm, in writing, through its head of government, if it wishes to extend the term of [the USMCA] for another 16-year period”. Unless all parties agree on the extension, the USMCA will terminate 16 years after its entry into force (ie, on 1 July 2036). Over the coming year, Mexico and the other USMCA parties are likely to begin preparing for the review and extension process.
The expected entry into force of the updated Mexico–EU trade agreement will alter competitive dynamics in several Mexican industries, particularly in the agricultural sector. For example, the updated agreement will open the Mexican market to imports of European pork and poultry, while eliminating the EU’s tariffs on Mexico’s exports of tuna, fruits and vegetables, among other goods. In addition, the updated agreement will grant European companies new access to Mexico’s government procurement market, increasing competition in sectors supplying goods and services to Mexican public entities.
As one of the world’s most globally integrated economies, Mexico has been a strong proponent of the multilateral trading system and has participated actively in negotiations at the WTO. At the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference in July 2022, members agreed to continue multilateral discussions in several important areas, including new disciplines to address fisheries subsidies and a potential waiver of certain patent protections under the TRIPS Agreement for therapeutics and diagnostics related to COVID-19. In addition, members agreed “to work towards necessary reform of the WTO” and to “conduct discussions with the view to having a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system accessible to all members by 2024”. Of these issues, restoring the functionality of the WTO dispute settlement system is likely to be of greatest interest to Mexico, which has been an active user of the system and is participating in the multi-party interim appeal arrangement (MPIA) while the Appellate Body remains inoperable.
The main legal and administrative authorities governing customs matters in Mexico are the Customs Law and the Customs Law Regulations.
Currently, the Tax Administration Service (Servicio de Administración Tributaria – SAT) within the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit administers and enforces Mexico’s customs laws and regulations. However, in July 2021, Mexico’s President issued a decree to create a National Customs Agency, which will be a separate entity from the SAT and will begin operations once Congress amends the current law that governs the SAT.
The Ministry of Economy also participates in creating and enforcing certain trade rules, limited to certain programmes, such as Sector Promotion, IMMEX, etc. Finally, the Tax Prosecutor is responsible for enforcing and pursuing customs-related criminal offences.
The primary legal instruments through which Mexico responds to unfair foreign trade practices are the anti-dumping and countervailing duty provisions of the Foreign Trade Act and the Agreement on the Application of Article VI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. These provisions allow the government of Mexico to impose tariffs on imported goods that are sold in Mexico at less than fair value or that benefit from countervailable subsidies and cause injury to a domestic industry. The WTO Agreement on Anti-Dumping and the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures permit WTO members to take such measures.
It is important to clarify some subtle differences with respect to some commercial partners (eg, the US). According to Mexican jurisprudence, trade agreements are above any secondary law and just below the Constitution. Therefore, WTO criteria resulting from disputes/controversies are considered as part of directly applicable jurisprudence (this is not the case in the US).
Mexico does not have a statute analogous to Section 301 of the US Trade Act of 1974, which allows the US government to respond unilaterally to foreign trade practices that it finds to be “unreasonable or discriminatory” in the course of a formal investigation by the US Trade Representative. However, on rare occasions, Mexico has relied on provisions of the Foreign Trade Act to respond unilaterally to foreign trade practices that it considers to be unjustified. For example, in June 2018, then-President Enrique Peña Nieto issued a Decree increasing tariffs on certain products of the United States in response to the United States’ tariffs on steel and aluminium products from Mexico, citing his authority under Article 131 of the Mexican Constitution and Articles 2, 4, 12 and 14 of the Foreign Trade Act. These retaliatory tariffs are no longer in effect.
Over the past year, the Mexican government has announced several organisational changes that are intended to improve the administration and efficiency of customs procedures, as follows.
As noted in 2.2 Enforcement Agencies Enforcing Customs Regulations, President López Obrador has issued a Decree providing for the creation of a new National Customs Agency. This Decree will take effect when legal reforms transferring the SAT’s customs authorities to the new National Customs Agency become effective. Within 180 days after the Decree becomes effective, the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit must propose draft internal regulations for the new National Customs Agency. The transition of customs authorities to an entirely new agency with new internal regulations will be an important development for importers and exporters in the Mexican market.
Mexico’s President may impose trade controls and prohibitions in exceptional cases (eg, the ban on electronic cigarettes as mentioned in 2.4 Key Developments in Customs Measures). Non-compliance with such regulations can result in fines, the forfeiture of goods or even criminal liability.
The sanctions regime is governed by Article 133 of the Mexican Constitution and by the Foreign Trade Law and its regulatory provisions.
Through the Ministry of Economy, the President has the authority to:
Other ministries may be involved in the creation and enforcement of non-tariff controls – eg, the Federal Commission for Protection Against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) regarding human health-related goods, or the National Department of Health, Food Safety and Food Quality (SENASICA) regarding animal or vegetable-related goods).
The SAT is the government agency in charge of enforcing trade regulations during the importation and exportation process. It will review compliance with the necessary tariff and non-tariff requirements for any specific product.
Any person that imports or exports, or intends to do so, is subject to trade laws and regulations and, if necessary, to the sanctions provided for therein.
Mexico does not have a list of sanctioned persons for customs violations per se but enforces UN sanctions (eg, against members of the Islamic State, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, etc).
In addition, all persons that import or export goods must register with the Federal Tax Registry and the National Registry of Importers or Exporters; for certain goods (eg, hydrocarbons) they must also register with specific national registries prior to performing trade operations. The SAT maintains a list of the persons that have a valid registration and a list of the persons that have lost their registration for any reason.
Mexico maintains embargoes against the countries sanctioned by the UN (see Federal Gazette Publication of 27 December 2020).
Mexico has no other types of sanctions.
Mexico does not apply or threaten sanctions in connection with transactions that have no nexus to the specific jurisdictions subject to an embargo.
Fines for non-compliance with trade requirements range between 70% and 100% of the commercial value of the goods. In certain cases, such goods will be forfeited to the Federal Treasury.
Criminal offences for smuggling goods are subject to imprisonment of between three months and nine years, and can also be subject to economic sanctions (Article 104 of the Federal Tax Code). Legal persons can be subject to criminal penalties, such as:
Importers and exporters must provide the documents demonstrating their compliance with trade regulations to the SAT, or the SAT will not issue the customs clearance for their products.
Certain goods are subject to trade controls that require an automatic or non-automatic licence to be obtained before trading can commence (hydrocarbons, pharmaceutical products, live animals, steel, etc).
For example, the importation or exportation of hydrocarbons and related goods (ie, fuel) requires a licence from the Ministry of Energy and the registration of the interested party in the Trade Registry of Hydrocarbons. Failure to comply with these requirements will result in the denial by the SAT of import/export clearance for the good. The SAT could also sanction the conduct if the importation was completed without satisfying the appropriate requirements for any reason.
The sanctions laws and regulations are strictly enforced. The SAT does not need to demonstrate an intention of wrongdoing, but only non-compliance with any of the requirements. Compliance with customs requirements has been reinforced during President López Obrador’s administration.
To obtain clearance to import or export any product, the interested party has to present documents that demonstrate compliance with the licence requirements and tariffs.
Persons must maintain their tax and customs-related records for a period of five years, at any time during which the SAT can review and request information on trade operations.
At the time of writing, Mexico has no blocking statutes nor any anti-boycott laws. However, President López Obrador has publicly criticised the embargoes by the US against Cuba and Venezuela.
In recent years, President López Obrador has issued several rulings to increase the requirements to obtain licences to trade hydrocarbons and related products. The modifications range from stricter rules for obtaining importation permits (licences) to increasing the imprisonment penalty for hydrocarbons smuggling. These amendments are perceived as part of a government policy to eliminate the smuggling of fuels and benefit the state-owned enterprise Pemex. However, they have been characterised by some companies in the energy sector as barriers to free trade.
Besides the changes and hot topics previously mentioned, there are no significant pending changes to Mexico’s sanctions regulations.
Generally, exports are open and subject to the same controls as imports, meaning that exporters must obtain clearance from the SAT to export their products, and that certain goods are subject to non-tariff controls, such as automatic or non-automatic licences.
For example, as a member of the United Nations, Mexico restricts the exportation of arms and other items to certain countries in accordance with the decisions of the UN Security Council. As a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, Mexico requires exporters to obtain permits prior to the exportation of certain dual-use goods, conventional arms and dual-use software and technologies.
The Foreign Trade Act and Article 131 of the Mexican Constitution authorise the Federal Executive to regulate, restrict or prohibit the exportation of merchandise. The export prohibitions that Mexico has imposed in accordance with UN Security Council decisions are set forth in the Agreement prohibiting the export or import of various goods to the countries, entities and persons indicated, issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economy on 29 November 2012, as amended.
Mexico’s export permitting requirements for goods covered by the Wassenaar Arrangement are set forth in the Agreement subjecting the export of conventional arms, their parts and components, dual-use goods, software and technologies susceptible to diversion for the manufacture and proliferation of conventional weapons and mass destruction to the requirement of prior permission by the Ministry of Economy, issued on 16 June 2011, as amended.
The Ministry of Economy is responsible for co-ordinating the system of export controls for goods that are subject to licensing requirements. The Directorate-General for Foreign Trade (DGCE) within the Ministry of Economy is responsible for issuing export permits for goods that are subject to export controls. Depending on the product at issue, the DGCE may also seek the opinions of other agencies.
The SAT is the government agency in charge of enforcing and reviewing export controls and sanctions.
See 3.4 Persons Subject to Sanctions Laws and Regulations and 3.9 Penalties for Violations.
See 3.5 List of Sanctioned Persons.
At the time of writing, the exportation of fresh tomatoes, slot machines, textiles, footwear and certain steel products requires an automatic export licence.
Mexico also requires a non-automatic licence for or forbids the exportation of certain goods, pursuant to international agreements, such as:
The requirements for obtaining such licences are published in the Federal Gazette, and are based on a range of policy justifications and international commitments. For instance, the controls on certain steel products are part of a monitoring mechanism agreed to in the Joint Statement between Mexico and the US to eliminate Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminium.
All export controls are in the form of list-based regulations.
See 3.9 Penalties for Violations.
The Ministry of Economy or the corresponding Ministry (Health, Energy, etc) have the authority to issue export permits for goods that are subject to export controls. In general terms, requests for export permits are processed within 15 working days and are valid for one year, if granted. The government agency may deny a request for an export permit if it becomes aware that the applicants participated in the diversion of regulated objects to unauthorised end uses or end users or in illegal activities, made false statements, or did not meet the requirements necessary to ensure proper control over such exports.
See 3.11 Compliance.
See 3.12 Sanction Reporting Requirements.
Apart from the changes and hot topics previously mentioned, there are no significant pending changes regarding export controls.
At the time of writing, there are no significant pending changes or hot topics on the horizon regarding export controls.
Mexico’s Foreign Trade Act, its regulatory provisions and the Agreement on the Application of Article VI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade govern the imposition of anti-dumping and countervailing duties and safeguard measures.
The International Trade Practices Unit (UPCI) within the Ministry of Economy administers Mexico’s trade remedy laws. The Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, through the SAT, is responsible for collecting any applicable duties on imports.
The investigating authority may initiate an investigation on its own initiative, or in response to petitions from domestic producers of the merchandise at issue that have support of the majority of domestic producers and represent at least 25% of domestic production of the product identical or similar to that which is subject to investigation.
Domestic companies can file anti-dumping, countervailing duty and safeguard petitions on an ad hoc basis for new investigations, and may request to open a review of existing duties every year or when such duties are about to expire (every five years). However, if justified, Mexican authorities can initiate a procedure ex officio of changed circumstances to review the duties, at any time.
Foreign entities (including exporters or organisations of foreign producers of subject items) that have a direct interest in the investigation in question are considered to be “interested parties” and may participate in trade remedy investigations in Mexico.
In anti-dumping, countervailing duty and safeguard proceedings, the Ministry has 25 working days after receiving the petition to accept the request and announce the initiation of an investigation. Alternatively, the Ministry may decline to initiate the investigation or request additional information from the petitioner. If the Ministry chooses to initiate an investigation, it must notify interested parties within one day after publishing the notice of initiation in the Official Gazette. Interested parties are given 23 days to present arguments, information and evidence, starting five days after the date on which the Ministry sends the notice of initiation to interested parties.
In anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations, the Ministry must issue a preliminary resolution within 90 days of initiating the investigation. The preliminary resolution may terminate the investigation, impose provisional duties or announce that the investigation will continue without the imposition of provisional duties. In safeguard investigations, the Federal Executive may establish provisional safeguard measures within 20 days after initiation if “critical circumstances” exist, and such provisional measures may remain in place for up to six months.
The Ministry must issue a final resolution within 210 days of initiating an anti-dumping investigation. In practical terms, the Mexican authorities try to apply the maximum deadline of 18 months in anti-dumping, countervailing duty or safeguard proceedings. The final resolution may impose definitive measures, revoke the provisional measures or declare the investigation concluded without imposing measures. Mexican law permits a “lesser duty rule”, which has often been used to impose duties that can be lower than the price discrimination level.
In anti-dumping and countervailing duty proceedings, the Ministry’s provisional and final resolutions must be published in the Federal Gazette and contain the following, among other things:
In safeguard proceedings, the Ministry’s final resolution must include the following, among other things:
In the USMCA, the parties have agreed to exclude imports from another party from a safeguard action, unless such imports “account for a substantial share of total imports” and “contribute importantly to the serious injury, or threat thereof, caused by imports”.
Definitive anti-dumping and countervailing duty measures can be reviewed annually at the request of a party, or at any time on the Ministry’s own initiative. Definitive anti-dumping and countervailing duty measures expire automatically five years after their entry into force, unless the Ministry initiates one of the following before the end of the five-year period:
Safeguard measures can be imposed for up to four years, and may be extended for up to six additional years if warranted.
An annual review can be requested by an interested party that participated in the original anti-dumping or countervailing duty investigation, or any other party that demonstrates a legal interest. Annual reviews generally follow the same procedures as the original investigations.
Duties or the decision to not impose such duties may be challenged by a review before the Ministry of Economy, and the final decision of the Ministry of Economy may then be challenged by an annulment trial before the Federal Tribunal of Administrative Justice. In exceptional circumstances, the decision of the Ministry of Economy may be challenged through an amparo indirecto (ie, when the decision breaches a fundamental right set forth in the Constitution) without having to proceed with the review and/or the annulment trial.
Interested parties may file the review within 30 business days of the final determination being published in the Federal Gazette, and only the parties to the process have legal standing to participate in the review. The Ministry of Economy has three months to issue a decision on the review; if it fails to do so, the determination on anti-dumping, safeguards or countervailing duties is presumed to be confirmed.
The annulment trial may be filed within 30 business days of the decision on the review being issued by the Ministry of Economy or after the three-month period elapses with no decision from the Ministry of Economy. The process before the Federal Tribunal of Administrative Justice is governed by the Federal Law on Contentious Administrative Proceedings. The ruling by this Federal Tribunal can be challenged before a Federal Court by means of an amparo directo.
The full process to challenge the determination may last three to four years, so in practice it is uncommon for parties to file an appeal after the review process by the Ministry of Economy.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all proceedings before the Ministry of Economy are now conducted through electronic means; onsite visits have been de facto suspended.
The UPCI has recently decided that business chambers lack legal standing as interested parties to investigations.
At the time of writing, there are no significant pending changes or hot topics on the horizon regarding anti-dumping and countervailing duty measures.
Foreign direct investment in Mexico is governed primarily by the Foreign Investment Law and its implementing regulations. The Foreign Investment Law authorises Mexico’s National Foreign Investment Commission to prevent acquisitions by foreign investment for reasons of national security.
The Mexican Constitution and the Foreign Investment Law provide three types of restrictions to specific sectors:
The main entities responsible for regulating and managing foreign investment in Mexico are the National Foreign Investment Commission, the Directorate-General of Foreign Investment and the National Foreign Investment Register.
As mentioned in 6.1 Investment Security Mechanisms, Mexican laws and regulations provide three types of restrictions:
Foreign persons or entities that intend to do business in Mexico in any of the regulated sectors mentioned in 6.3 Transactions Subject to Investment Security Measures must obtain a licence from the National Foreign Investment Commission before their incorporation and, for all activities that involve foreign investments, must register with the National Registry of Foreign Investment and present periodic updates in the circumstances set forth in the Law (eg, amendments to their corporate name, economic activity, tax address and if their income or expenses exceed the threshold determined by the National Foreign Investment Commission).
All activities that are not listed in Articles 5, 6 and 7 are exempt from the licensing requirements but shall at all times comply with the requirements of the Foreign Investment Registry.
Any licence granted by the National Foreign Investment Commission may be revoked if the interested party breaches the Foreign Investment Law (eg, fails to report a change in foreign investment participation to the Federal Registry).
Depending on the obligation that is breached, any breach of the Foreign Investment Law could result in a fine of between 30 and 5,000 units of measure (ie, the index to calculate fines published in the Federal Gazette) or a sanction up to the value of the illegal operation.
The licence from the National Foreign Investment Commission and the registration with the National Registry of Foreign Investment are subject to a processing duty, which is updated yearly.
At the time of writing, there are no significant developments regarding investment security.
In September 2021, President López Obrador sent to Congress a Presidential Initiative to Modify Articles 25, 27 and 28 of the Constitution to nationalise the electricity sector. Under this initiative, all the activities related to the electricity sector that were open to private parties (ie, power generation, marketing, supply) will be reserved exclusively for the State-owned enterprise, CFE. Therefore, if the initiative is enacted, foreign investment in the electricity sector will be banned and limited to certain procurement agreements with CFE.
Like many WTO members, Mexico has programmes in place to support its domestic producers in the agricultural sector. Currently, many of these policies are guided by the Sectoral Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development 2019–2024. A significant portion of Mexico’s support for agricultural producers comes in the form of market price support, beneficiaries of which include producers of sugar, poultry, coffee, wheat and tomatoes. Other support measures include direct payments to producers based on area and subsidies based on electricity consumption.
In the industrial sector, Mexico has several programmes in place to encourage domestic production. For example, Mexico’s Programme for Industry, Manufacturing, Maquila and Export Services (IMMEX) allows the temporary importation of goods needed to produce, transform or repair goods from abroad for subsequent export and to provide export services, free of import tariffs and VAT. Mexico’s Sectoral Promotion Programmes (PROSECS) allow firms producing specific goods to import the necessary inputs and machinery at preferential tariff rates, regardless of whether the goods are for export or domestic consumption.
Mexico maintains a variety of technical regulations and labelling requirements, known as Official Mexican Standards (Normas Oficiales Mexicanas – NOMs), which are issued by government agencies and secretariats. Imported products must comply with the applicable NOMs. Mexico’s Ministry of Economy maintains a list of products that are subject to compliance with NOMs at the point of entry into Mexico, set forth in Annex 2.4.1 of the Resolution by which the Secretariat of Economy issues General Rules and Criteria regarding Foreign Trade (the NOM Annex). Certain of these NOMs have generated trade concerns, such as:
As mentioned in 1.5 Key Developments Regarding Trade Agreements, importers must demonstrate compliance with the applicable NOMs at the point of entry, so NOMs are a continuous cause of concern for foreign trade.
Mexico’s policies with respect to agricultural biotechnology have become a source of friction with its trading partners of late, especially the United States. Mexico’s Law on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms prohibits the importation of genetically modified organisms without the authorisation of the relevant Mexican health authorities. The US government and industry stakeholders have expressed concern that COFEPRIS has not approved any agricultural biotechnology products for use in food and feed since 2018, even though multiple applications are pending and have exceeded the statutory timeline for a decision. In addition, US stakeholders have expressed concern about a Decree issued by President López Obrador on 31 December 2020 that calls for the phase-out of the herbicide glyphosate and genetically modified corn for human consumption in Mexico. There is concern that these policies will limit export opportunities in Mexico for US firms.
Sanitary measures in the case of some basic foods, like chicken, are also noteworthy. Mexico restricts imports from countries with a prevalence of specific diseases; in recent periods, however, President López Obrador has facilitated trade with such countries because of economic/pandemic issues resulting in supply problems. Mexico faces sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions in sensitive areas (again chicken is a good example), which creates open markets in just one direction with USMCA partners.
Under exceptional circumstances, the Mexican Constitution allows the President to impose price controls on goods that are necessary for the national economy and popular consumption. Historically, the government has set price controls on agri-food products such as corn, and it has, since August 2021, been enforcing price controls on the marketing of LP gas.
In addition, to avoid monopolistic practices in certain industries, the Antitrust Regulators (COFECE, ARTF, CRE and IFT) have set price controls on certain services provided by the incumbent agent or the agent that holds monopolistic power, such as the sale of first-hand oil and gas, train freight tariffs for certain products, wholesale access to telecommunications networks, etc.
While aimed at protecting the public interest, such measures could reduce competition and imports.
US and EU stakeholders have recently expressed concern about the following changes in Mexico’s energy policy that are perceived to discriminate against foreign firms in favour of state-owned enterprises:
Under Article 28 of Mexico’s Law on Public Sector Procurement, Leases and Services, certain procurements are open to public bidding only by Mexican nationals, and the goods offered must meet local content requirements. Other procurement proceedings are open only to Mexican or foreign suppliers from countries whose FTAs with Mexico contain government procurement obligations. Some procurement proceedings are open to suppliers from any country, but goods of Mexican origin benefit from a 15% price preference in such proceedings.
Pursuant to the recently enacted Industrial Property Law (see Federal Gazette of 1 July 2020), to comply with several obligations under international treaties (eg, USMCA), Mexico included the protection of domestic production through geographical indications, along with denominations of origin that were recognised by the previous law.
At the time of writing, Mexico has 16 goods protected under denominations of origin and 14 geographical indications. These protections have been used for foods (Cacao Grijalva, Chile Habanero de la Península de Yucatán, Mango Ataulfo, Chile Poblano, etc), alcoholic beverages (Tequila, Mezcal, Sotol, etc) and artisan products (eg, Talavera, Olinalá, Ambar de Chiapas and Alebrijes).
Like other countries, Mexico is facing serious trade challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions to the supply chain of raw materials. The Mexican economy contracted in 2020 and 2021 and the recovery for 2022 has not achieved the predicted results, mainly due to the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Mexico’s geographic location and competitive manufacturing costs present unique opportunities for economic development, although the current administration has not prioritised the promotion of international trade and policies to reshape the Mexican economy. Examples include cancelling Mexico City’s new international airport, criticising “neo-liberal” commitments and policies pursued by other countries and previous administrations (eg, an initiative to create a parallel organisation to the Organization of American States), and a strong push to nationalise certain sectors and centralise presidential power.
One key issue that will affect Mexico’s attractiveness as a trade and investment destination is the current presidential initiative to nationalise the energy industry. If enacted, this initiative could reduce foreign investors’ confidence in Mexico and cause an avalanche of foreign investment arbitrations against the country.
Mexico’s customs enforcement policy has also considerably delayed the processing times for imported and exported goods, which along with supply chain disruptions has created economic difficulties for many industries.
Despite perceived security-related risks, Mexico’s strategic geographic position, the availability of inputs in an open market and a competitive workforce has attracted foreign investment that seeks to relocate from Asian countries. In sectors such as automotive, auto parts and medical devices, several international companies have established or consolidated investments in Mexico, especially in the northern area of the country. This has been motivated, in the case of the automotive industry, by changes in the regional content criteria renegotiated under the USMCA, according to which there will be an increase in regional content from 62.5% to 75% to continue enjoying tariff preferences. The availability of minerals such as fluorspar, strontium and gold in Mexico, as well as graphite, lead and selenium, in which Mexico has managed to compete with main traditional suppliers (China) in the US, complements Mexico’s strategic position as a nearshoring hub.
Lithium will be of particular interest in the future , as Mexico ranks 10th out of 23 countries with lithium reserves. This case was recently the subject of a decree reaffirming nationalisation; however, while it has caused controversy, observers predict there will continue to be interest in the refinement and subsequent manufacture of this strategic item in the near future.