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International Trade Barriers in Mexico | The Trading Room

16 Apr , 2021  

The Trading Room

This week in our economic newsletter, we highlight the report of the USTR that identifies international trade barriers in Mexico, among other matters.

International Trade Barriers in Mexico

On March 31, the USTR published its annual report “Barriers to Foreign Trade 2021“, which lists different trade concerns either identified by USTR and expressed by the business sector. The report includes a handful of matters about Mexico on issues such as trade, services, and investment.

We highlight the following matters:

Customs barriers and trade facilitation

Despite that Mexico ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2016, US exporters continue to express concern about Mexican customs procedures. In particular, the problems identified are (i) changes in procedures with insufficient prior notification, (ii) inconsistent interpretation of the regulatory requirements in the different border ports, (iii) labeling rules, (iv) limitations on customs agencies (v) parcel services, among others.

Modification to the list of goods subject to compliance with Official Mexican Standards (NOMs) and Trade Barriers

On October 23, 2019, the Ministry of Economy modified Annex 2.4.1 of the General Rules and Criteria on Foreign Trade, identifying tariff items of the goods subject to compliance with the NOMs at the point of entry to Mexico. This created testing and certification requirements for products that previously did not require them.

The Ministry introduced additional changes to Annex 2.4.1 in October 2020, eliminating three exemptions for compliance with 14 labeling NOMs. These changes affected different sectors with customs delays, including the hotel industry and the manufacturing sector. While the Ministry clarified certain rules, the report says the US will continue to review this issue.

Food Labeling and Trade Barriers

The report also mentions the new food labeling requirements, namely the Front-of-Package Nutrition Labels. We highlight that the US raised its concerns at the TBT committee in May 2020 and October 2020.


The Mexican Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources has rejected import permits for products containing glyphosate, a controversial herbicide. According to the US, Mexico has not given the opportunity to make public comments, nor has it submitted the corresponding notification to the WTO, nor has it provided scientific evidence to justify its decisions to this international trade barrier. The presidential decree of December 31, 2020, that establishes a lag period for glyphosate was also indicated in the report.

Biotech products facing trade barriers in Mexico

The US identifies that COFEPRIS has not issued an authorization for biotech products for human food or livestock purposes since May 2018. The report also informs concerns related to the rejection of authorizations related to transgenic corn – derived from the Presidential decree of December 31, 2020 – and biotech cotton.

Public procurement

The report mentions the new government policy to centralize almost all federal government purchases under the Ministry of Finance. In this regard, US companies expressed concerns that the tenders are less transparent, had inadequate timing, and that there were multiple messy tenders.

Energy sector

Finally, the USTR notes that US energy companies have complained of significant delays in issuing permits, discriminatory application of regulations, and lack of advance notice of reforms. And we note that the report says that the US government is committed to ensuring that its investors receive fair treatment.

World Trade Growth in 2021

The World Trade Organization (WTO) forecast an increase in the volume of world merchandise trade of 8% for the current year. This is because merchandise trade expanded beyond what was expected in the second half of 2020 following the pandemic shock. However, Covid-19 and possible new waves of infection remain the biggest risk to the prospect of trade recovery.


World Trade Growth, Forecast, WTO
Source WTO

Likewise, the WTO warned that in the short term this positive outlook is not guaranteed as regional disparity, weakness in trade in services, and lags in vaccination, particularly in developing countries, continue to exist.

Labor Outsourcing Reform in Mexico

Last week, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS) announced an agreement with the labor and business sectors on the initiative to prohibit labor outsourcing. The agreement covers the following topics:

  • The prohibition of outsourcing of personnel.
  • The regulation of the outsourcing of specialized services other than the corporate purpose and the main economic activity of the contracting company.
  • Registration with the STPS and registration in the public registry of companies outsourcing specialized services and works.
  • The responsibility of a three-month term for outsourced workers to become part of the payroll of the actual employer.
  • Creation of two modalities for the calculation of profit sharing with employees.

Thus, the Chamber of Deputies resumed its analysis and approved labor outsourcing reform this Wednesday, for which it was turned over to the Senate of the Republic. Derived from the agreements, the labor outsourcing reform now includes new issues, such as “profit-sharing” and “labor services between companies of the same group”, as was being announced unofficially last week.

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Virtual Trade Summit USTR-Mexico | Mexican Economic Newsletter

26 Mar , 2021  

Mexican Economic Newsletter, International Trade News in Mexico

Trade Summit USTR-Mexico 2021

On March 23, Tatiana Clouthier, head of the Ministry of Economy, met virtually with U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Katherine Tai, to discuss the importance of the bilateral trade relationship and the full implementation of the USMCA. 

Both sides committed to future engagement on shared priorities such as economic recovery in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the full implementation of Mexico’s labor reform. Both sides also agreed on the mutual benefit derived from strong bilateral agricultural trade.

US Associations Trade Express Concerns Before and After USTR-Mexico Trade Summit 

One day before this meeting, a group of 27 U.S. agricultural associations sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the USTR that is available on the National Potato Council’s website. In addition, the Alliance for Trade Enforcement also issued a letter to the USTR this Wednesday.  

Both associations have expressed their concerns about certain measures issued by the Mexican government that has already or will negatively impact a portion of U.S. agricultural exports and other sectors.

What are the main trade concerns?

  • Glyphosate /GM Corn Barn
  • Increasing Obstacles to Dairy Trade
  • Organic Export Certification Requirements
  • Corn Product Disparagement
  • Biotechnology Approvals
  • Meat Industry Market Access and Geographical Indications
  • Potato Import Ban
  • Front-of-Pack Labeling (NOM-051)
  • Telecommunications, Broadcasting, and Audiovisual Services
  • Biopharmaceuticals
  • Energy and Power Generation
  • Customs and Trade Facilitation
  • Electronic Payment Services

Will one of these issues spark a trade dispute? 

VTZ has addressed some of these issues in our previous newsletters and /or digital content. If you have any questions, please let us know. 

International Reactions to the Electrical Industry Law Reform 

Prior to the Electrical Industry Law reform publication in the Official Gazette on March 9, 2021, some of Mexico’s trading partners expressed their concerns about the impact of said reform on energy investments. If you wish to know more about this controversial reform, we consider this content relevant: Wilson Center

US Reactions

The Vice President for the Americas of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Neil Herrington, expressed that the reform was deeply troubling because it would reestablish a monopoly in the sector and affect Mexico’s commitments to the U.S. under the USMCA.

Canadian Reactions

Mary Ng, Canadian Trade Minister, expressed through a letter sent to the Mexican Ministry of Economy, emphasizing Mexico’s obligation to maintain a stable and predictable business environment for Canadian companies.

European Union Reactions

In the same vein, EU’s representatives in Mexico recognized Mexico’s sovereign right to define its energy policy. However, they pointed out that this could lead to international arbitration, as well as a loss of confidence on behalf of investors.

Mexican Judges Grant Injunctions Against the Reform

Meanwhile, some companies in Mexico filed a constitutional remedy (amparo) against the electrical reform requesting the suspension of the reforms effects. A couple of Judges have granted suspensions (injunctions) and with general effects. In other words, the suspensions protect all companies that may be affected by the electrical reform in order to avoid market distortions.

VTZ Comment

At VTZ, we certainly believe that this reform could eventually trigger Investor-State disputes per FTAs and/or BIT. Furthermore, we consider it possible that the U.S. and Canada could initiate a USMCA (State-State) dispute, so there trade retaliation is possible in the event that an international panel rules against Mexico.

Investment in Mexico: 200 Projects

During the inauguration of the 104th General Assembly of the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham), the Minister of Economy, Tatiana Cloutier, mentioned that the Mexican Government has a list of 200 studies and projects in which U.S. companies will be invited to invest. These projects have been worked in coordination with international organizations and focus on nine states in the southeast of Mexico. 

In this regard, the incoming president of Amcham, Vladimiro de la Mora, added that Amcham members are committed to Mexico; however, to continue being a reliable, attractive, and safe partner for investment, Mexico needs to ensure an essential level of security, respect for the law and legal certainty. 

Eventually, the projects will be announced, and we deem that such projects will be open to all companies, regardless of their nationality or origin. We expect that some projects will be related to the Isthmus Corridor project.

Sources: El UniversalLa JornadaEl Informador 

Changes in the Ministry of Economy

Last week, the Ministry of Finance issued a statement to inform that as of April 1, Ernesto Acevedo Fernández will be appointed as Alternate Executive Director of the World Bank.

As of the 1st of April Ernesto Acevedo Fernández will represent Mexico before the World Bank (@BancoMundial) as Alternate Executive Director of that institution.

— Hacienda 🇲🇽 (@Hacienda_Mexico) March 18, 2021

Ernesto Acevedo is currently acting as undersecretary of Industry, Trade and Competitiveness at the Ministry of Economy. Mr. Acevedo is going to be substituted by Héctor Guerrero. According to the declarations of the Ministry of Economy, Tatiana Clouthier, Mr.  Guerrero has worked in the private sector for a long time and joined the public sector when Andrés Manuel López Obrador became president. 


At this time, Mr. Guerrero is the Coordinator of the National Council for Investment, Employment and Economic Growth (COFINECE, acronym in Spanish), which is chaired by the Head of the Presidential Office. During the announcement, the Ministry also mentioned Alfonso Romo, who used to be in charge of the Presidential Office and is currently a sort of liaison between the private and public sectors. 

What are the responsibilities of the Undersecretary of Industry?

  • Coordinate trade remedy investigations.
  • Design industrial development and innovation policies.
  • Design policies to promote domestic trade, business growth, and production chains
  • Design actions, plans, and programs for the industry and trade sectors, and also for the services and productive chains sectors.
  • Policies to promote international trade competitiveness.
  • Trade regulations, standardization, and conformity assessment.
  • National content requirements in the energy sector.

Cannabis Law Regulation

Last week, the Chamber of Deputies approved the Federal Law for the Cannabis Regulation project. This law will allow the recreational use of marijuana (up to 28 grams), and the possibility of self-cultivation, including importation, through permits.

The project-law will return to the Chamber of Senators for the approval of the changes made by the Chamber of Deputies in order to conclude the legislative process.

Source: El Economista

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Mexico’s NAFTA Objectives

2 Aug , 2017  

Today, August 2, 2017, the Senate released a document entitled “Notice regarding the Initiation of the Negotiations regarding NAFTA’s modernization” that was provided by the Ministry of Economy. In said document, the Ministry of Economy explained the reasons why it should participate in the renegotiation. We highlight the following statements:

  • Mexico will not accept an increase of tariffs;
  • Mexico is willing to modernize NAFTA with new disciplines of the XXI century;
  • NAFTA should continue being a trilateral agreement;

Furthermore, the Ministry of Economy also published Mexico’s priorities in NAFTA’s negotiation. In harmony with recent statements from the Mexican Minister of Economy, the document does not specify specific objectives. However, it is mentioned that Mexico has the following priorities: 1. Strengthening the competitiveness of the region,  2. An Inclusive and Responsible Regional Trade, 3. Reap the Benefits of the XXI century economy, and 4. Foster Security and Predictability in North American Trade & Investment.

In that sense, if NAFTA is modernized it should create the following benefits:

  • Maintain market access for goods and services without barriers, in particular for agricultural products;
  • Rules of Origins that benefit the region;
  • Trade Facilitation and better customs procedures;
  • Regulatory harmony in Sanitary & Phytosanitary measures;
  • Improve labor integration in the North American Market by increasing the categories of temporal movements of business persons as well as improving time frames, transparency, and procedures for their entry. Also, promote regional cooperation  regarding the development of labor capacities;
  • Strengthening the enforcement of labor laws;
  • Assistance to SMEs and including provisions regarding Gender Equality;
  • Improving NAFTA’s dispute settlements mechanisms, including Chapter 19 (Antidumping), Chapter 11 (Investor-State), and Chapter 20 (State-State);
  • Transparency and Anticorruption disciplines;
  • E-Commerce;
  • Improving market access to financial services for Mexican Investors;
  • Enhancing the North American Development Bank; and,
  • Energy disciplines.
  • Disciplines regarding SOE;
  • Promote competition, improving cooperation between the NAFTA Parties.

In conclusion, the Ministry of Economy stated that the objective is to have an expedite negotiation process and maintain Mexico’s benefits.

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