Our third chapter of Doing Business in Mexico, International Trade, will provide a general overview of ton Mexican International Trade Policy considering international context, as well as customs aspects.
This chapter includes the following sections:
As a member of international organizations and Free Trade Agreements, Mexico has, to a certain extent, a predictable trade and customs policy. Mexican laws on customs and trade are normally compatible with international rules. The President and his ministers are not only in charge to apply these laws, but they also have powers to regulate international trade and customs, including emergency actions.
Since the inception of the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico’s trade and customs legal framework has not been subject to a substantial overhaul; seldom reforms particularly to the customs law have occurred from time to time.
However, Mexico is currently embracing modern free trade agreements, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP) or USMCA, that have and will bring certain legal changes in intellectual property, de minimis, e-commerce, etc.
Needless to say, trade and customs programs or regulations are subject to frequent changes that seek to adapt to new trends, risks, or policy objectives. Mexico has in place, for instance, duty deferral and tariff reduction programs that allow manufacturing or export-oriented industries to be more competitive. However, such programs are subject to strict government controls.
Mexico is a party to the World Customs Organization and to the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS Convention).
As a result of the sixth amendment to the HS, Mexican congress discussed a new law that replaced its General Import and Export Tariff Act (LIGIE, acronym in Spanish), i.e. Mexico’s Harmonized Tariff Schedule. The Ministry of Economy conducted an exhaustive review and proposed to compact or unfold tariff items for statistical purposes into 10 digits that will be called Commercial Identification Number, instead of an 8 digit tariff item (known as fracción arancelaria). The new General Import and Export Tariff Act was published on July 1, 2020.
Mexico’s average WTO bound tariff is 35%, and duties rates vary from 0% to 100%. According to Mexico’s most recent Trade Policy Review (2017), the average MFN tariff on agricultural and non-agricultural products was 14.3% and 4.6%, respectively. The General Import and Export Tariff Act establishes the import tariff or “General Import Tax” (Impuesto General de Importación, or IGI) as well as the export tariff “General Export Tax” (Impuesto General de Exportación, or IGE).
Mexico has an extensive network of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with 50 countries and is also a party to regional agreements within the framework of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI).
The main FTAs and trade agreements to which Mexico is currently a party are as follows:
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Long before NAFTA came into existence, Mexico had into effect duty deferral policies that allowed manufacturing companies, known as maquiladoras, to import goods, such as raw materials, parts, containers, etc., without paying import duties. The maquiladoras had to use said imported goods in the production of exported manufactured goods and, in turn, they could temporally import said goods and defer customs duties.
Eventually, NAFTA introduced drawback provisions to promote the use of regional goods and “to reduce the incentive for third countries to use a NAFTA country as an ‘export platform.” Article 303 NAFTA, replicated in article 2.5 USMCA, introduced a general prohibition on refunding or exempting customs duties owed on non-originating goods imported into the territory of a party.
In essence, these provisions have as a purpose to avoid double ‘taxation’ on non-originating materials that are used as an input in the production of a finished good subsequently exported to another NAFTA or USMCA party.
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