This week on the Trading Room, we address the Mexican the weekly news that impacts international trade in Mexico: Mexican COVID-19 strategy to resume activities, changes to the essential activities, Director General of the WTO steps down and its implications to Mexico, as well as the G20 decision. Download our newsletter in the following link: Trading Room – May 15.
After requests from the US government and industry, the Mexican Ministry of Health finally published yesterday the decision that adds as an “essential activities” the transportation equipment manufacturing industry, as well as the construction and mining; the decision also establishes a three-stage strategy to resume educational, social, and economic activities.
However, the three aforementioned industries will be able to resume activities until June 1, so supply chains will likely be affected, particularly OEM plants in the US that will begin operations the following week, as we reported last week citing the MENA.
For more information on the stages, we prepared an Alert – COVID.
We consider it important to share that the General Health Council published a similar decision on Wednesday, May 13, however, it was suddenly and incredibly withdrawn during the day by the Official Gazette of the Federation. The department issued a statement with an explanation.
Importante: Aclaración sobre la publicación de la edición electrónica del DOF del día de hoy. pic.twitter.com/DFmTVAckCJ
— Diario Oficial DOF (@DOF_SEGOB) May 13, 2020
A retired supreme court judge, Mr. Cossío, stated in a tweet that the alteration of the Official Gazette was done because public officials realized that the General Health Council lacked powers to issue such a decision.
La publicación del acuerdo del Sec. de Salud en el Diario Oficial del día de hoy, demuestra que la grave alteración al Diario Oficial de ayer fue porque se dieron cuenta que el Consejo de Salubridad era incompetente para dictar tales medidas.
— José Ramón Cossío D. (@JRCossio) May 14, 2020
The Mexican Bar issued a statement regarding this event calling the government to protect the trustworthiness of the Official Gazette.
— BMA COLEGIO ABOGADOS (@BMA_Abogados) May 14, 2020
In VTZ we fully endorse the content of the letter.
Yesterday, May 14, Roberto Azevedo, Director General (DG) of the WTO, announced that he will step down from his position on August 31 of this year. Roberto Azevedo began his position in 2013, a mandate that was renewed in 2017, and that ended in August 2021.
Within his mandate, the Commercial Facilitation Agreement, the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement, among other decisions, were agreed; Also, Azevedo has been criticized for being passive in defending the multilateral trading system due to the constant attacks of the US against the Appellate Body (including on a budgetary basis).
According to his farewell speech, Azevedo explains that he is resigning because, in part, members will be able to choose a new director who will have the time to prepare for the next Ministerial Conference as well as to set a new path for the future of the WTO, taking into account the new post-COVID-19 realities.
The WTO is going through a critical time, as no consensus has been reached, notably, with regard to the selection of Appellate Body members. Without a leader at the head of the WTO, the multilateral system will be paralyzed because members will hardly be able to reach new agreements to renew the foundations of the WTO, such as new agreements on subsidies, dispute settlement, fishery subsidies, etc.
Lighthizer, the US Trade Representative, stated that he looks forward to participating in the selection of the new DG; however, if the members do not manage to choose promptly, the trade uncertainty will continue because it will be difficult to reduce the tensions of the US-China trade war, to return the “Rule of Law” to international trade relations punishing unilateral-protectionist actions, as well as to face the post-COVID effects.
The regional blocs will continue to take on greater relevance in international trade, fragmenting and rendering the multilateral system obsolete. Although Mexico is a strong supporter of the multilateral system, Mexico has established itself in various regional blocs, notably USMCA (with a renewed dispute settlement chapter), CPTPP, Pacific Alliance, and now modernizing its trade relations with the European Union, which may allow Mexico to become an attraction pole for new regional and global value chains.
On May 14, the Ministry of Economy reported that the Trade and Investment Ministers of the G20 agreed on a series of specific actions in the short and long term to counter the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
— Economía México (@SE_mx) May 14, 2020
The actions foreseen in the short term focus mainly on issues of trade regulation and facilitation, global value chains, strengthening of foreign investment, transparency, and operation of logistics channels. In the long term, members agreed to strengthen the multilateral trading system.
Finally, the Ministry of Economy’s statement indicates that the G20 Trade and Investment Working Group must report the status of implementation of the agreed actions.
This week our newsletter addresses the issue regarding the essential businesses in Mexico, developments as to when economic activities for non-essential businesses in Mexico will resume, proposals to reactivate the Mexican economy on behalf of the Business Coordinating Council, as well as VTZ alerts. Download our newsletter here.
Last Friday and in the last days, news outlets reported that a group of senators submitted a letter to the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, so that the government of Mexico may clarify the definition of “essential businesses”. In the letter, the senators ask Pompeo to pressure Mexico to include food, medical, transportation, infrastructure, aerospace, auto, and national security as essential businesses. The food, medical, and national security sectors are essential activities in Mexico as we reported in our previous edition.
On Tuesday, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MENA), for its part, also submitted a letter to the Secretary of State regarding resuming activities in the auto and auto parts industry in Mexico. Although to our knowledge Pompeo has not made any public statements on this matter these days, MENA appreciated the efforts of the Secretary and his team, including Ambassador Christopher Landau.
In this regard, MENA informs Pompeo that the majority of the assembly plants (OEMs) will resume operations in the US on Monday 18 May. Hence, MENA requests that the automotive sector in Mexico resumes operations by next Tuesday, 12 May. MENA acknowledges that,
“[w]ithout parts from Mexico, it will be virtually impossible for U.S. motor vehicle assembly plants to restart.”
There is still no legal news about resuming activities for non-essential businesses in Mexico, but yesterday the Mexican President, AMLO, pointed out that Mexico is preparing to return to normality regarding productive activities and “once we have greater control over the pandemic, all economic, social, and cultural activity will be opened, of course, in a careful, gradual, and responsible manner.”
In response to a question of a journalist, the President said that communities that have not registered COVID cases may resume activities on Sunday 17 May. The president also announced that a plan to resume activities will be presented the following week. In this regard, the President also raised the possibility of establishing a sort of “traffic light” mechanism to determine if sectors, such as manufacturing, automotive, etc., can resume activities.
Needless to say, the Mexican States with the highest COVID registered cases, according to the federal government statistics, are:
*Figures dated May 6.
Fuente/Source: Secretaría de Salud
At a local level, we observe that cities or zones with a strong industrial activity register “considerable” COVID cases, which can be seen in the following map. Mexico is one of the countries with the lowest number of COVID tests per million people and, therefore, Mexico has a “low” number of registered cases because it is using the “sentinel surveillance” methodology.
#TestingForCovid19 has varied widely across countries ⤵️
— OECD ➡️ Better policies for better lives (@OECD) April 20, 2020
Taking into account the President’s public statements and the presence of COVID in industrial regions (such as Aguascalientes, León, Monterrey, Puebla, and northern border cities), we believe that it is extremely unlikely for the auto or manufacturing industry to resume operations the following week.
On May 6, the Mexican Business Coordinating Council (CCE) presented 68 recommendations to the Mexican President, AMLO, prepared by panelists from the private and public sectors. The recommendations aim to face the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Mexican economy. The following three types of actions are submitted:
Within this last category, a Policy for the Mexican Economy is developed that includes, among other matters, the following recommendations on Investment and Trade:
We emphasize that these proposals are not new. For example, adding more regional or domestic content to the global value chains and promoting export diversification has been a goal of past administrations; in fact, they are policy objectives of the current administration.
This week the European Commission published the “updated” texts of the EU-Mexico FTA modernization. These texts are preliminary and subject to a legal review known as “legal scrubbing”. Read the texts here.
During this week, several news outlets reported incorrect information about the pilot test of a digital currency conducted by the People’s Bank of China. Our partner who heads the Chinese Desk, Susana Muñoz, prepared an alert where she clarifies the information about the digital currency in China, check it out here.
This week, the First Amendment to the Miscellaneous Tax Regulations was published, which provides for the suspension of certain tax acts due to the health emergency. Our partner, Jorge Montes, prepared a tax alert on such matters, visit here (in Spanish only).
Download our newsletter, The Trading Room, in the following link Trading Room -17042020
This week it was reported in news outlets that industries in the region are seeking to postpone the entry into force of the USMCA automotive rules of origin; that is, to establish a transition period for said rules after USMCA’s entry into force.
USMCA’s entry into force remains a pending issue. So far, the US has not notified the completion of its internal procedures to trigger the 3 months term for its entry into force. However, it is said that it will take effect in mid-July or no later than September 1, which implies notification within the following weeks or months.
The region’s auto industry is concerned that rules of origin (RoO) will apply immediately with USMCA’s entry into force; regional content requirements will increase progressively. For this reason, 10 legislators in the US delivered a letter to the US Trade Representative (USTR) requesting “flexibility” and an adjustment period because COVID affected production in the region, complicating compliance with RoOs. In this regard, President Trump acknowledged last weekend that the agreement is different from the point of view that production will be lower.
In the case of Mexico, the president of the National Association of Buses, Trucks, and Tractor-trucks Producers (ANPACT), commented that “the complexity of complying with the origin regulations lies in the fact that for each component of a vehicle, calculations of regional content, the labor component, steel, and aluminum. In the case of an engine, they have approximately 700 suppliers, so meeting these requirements can take months.”
Furthermore, USMCA’s Uniform Rules are still being negotiated.
On Monday the Federal Law for the Promotion and Protection of Native Corn was published in the Official Gazette of the Federation.
In essence, this law provides the following:
i) The production, marketing, consumption and constant diversification of native corn is recognized as a national cultural manifestation, and
ii) access to Native Corn is guaranteed without genetically modified organisms.
Since 2019, this law is somewhat controversial because it seeks to protect Mexican Native Corn from Mexico’s USMCA commitments to adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 1991), Mexico is a party to said Convention but according to the 1978 Act. These conventions authorize the registration of patents on plant genes and varieties. However, UPOV 1991 extends rights to holders of such patents as compared to UPOV 1978.
Regardless of the above, we highlight that this law does not introduce restrictions on the importation of any type of corn into national territory.
For the third year, VTZ contributed Thomson Reuters Practical Law in the Guide to International Trade in Goods and Services in Mexico. Our Managing Partner, Adrian Vázquez, Junior Partner, Emilio Arteaga, and Associate, Mariana Malváez, answered a guide on key issues of international trade regulation in Mexico. Check the Guide here.
(Download our newsletter in PDF: Trading Room)
In a news outlet report, a member of the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (FONATUR, acronym in Spanish), Pablo Careaga Córdova, held that one of the most important infrastructure project of this administration, the Maya Train that will be located in the Yucatan Peninsula, would benefit from the Special Economic Zones policy, given that the statements made last week by representatives of the Ministry of Treasury about their possible elimination. According to Mr. Careaga, the SEZ and the Maya Train could create a synergy and foster investments, among other matters.
As reported by several news outlets, last Wednesday border patrol agents (CBP) were transferred to the cities that are most affected by the migration crisis. This situation has provoked a delay in the international trade operations in the border; for instance, two lanes of the Customs “Otay Mesa” have been closed temporarily. According to the media, 70% of the international trade between Mexico and the EEUU is done by land.
Meanwhile, President AMLO minimized the situation by declaring that “there are no grave problems”, notwithstanding that trucks take from 6 to 12 hours to cross the border, according to reports, which may cause exporters to have late deliveries.
Donald Trump has threatened to impose tariffs of 25% to cars and/or closing completely the border in the next year if Mexico does not stop the migration and drug flow. This action would be clearly incompatible with the auto side-letter that was signed under USMCA.
The Minister of Economy, Graciela Marquez, stated that Mexico would initiate a WTO dispute if the US closes its border.