Our first chapter of Doing Business in Mexico, Why Invest in Mexico?, will serve as an introduction providing a general overview of the current economic and business environment.
VTZ Law Firm analyzes Mexico’s doing business rankings and economic indicators –positive and negative– from the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.
Also, we summarize trade and foreign direct investment statistics with a strong focus on the manufacturing industry, land in Mexico for industrial purposes, and security considerations.
Although Mexico is not one of the most competitive countries in the world, Mexico is the second Latin American most competitive economy according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the World Bank (WB). WEF’s Global Competitiveness Index 2019, a yardstick for policymakers, analyzes 12 “broad” pillars that shape an economy of a country. Meanwhile, the WB’s Doing Business gathers information regarding the regulatory environment and how it impacts in local firms, reporting 10 key indicators.
Mexico stands out in macroeconomic stability (41st) and market size (11th) pillars, which are very relevant indicators to invest or do business in Mexico. This is no surprise as Mexico’s inflation has been controlled, around 3% to 4% per year; its GDP has had a stable growth, about 3%, in the last decades; and, its public debt has been properly managed.
Needless to say, inflation has had few spikes, notably in 2017, as a result of the liberalization of energy goods; and, despite having the second largest market of Latin America (124 million people), Mexico has a low GDP per capita or purchasing power.
Furthermore, Mexico also stands out in the following specific indicators: budget transparency (6th), energy efficiency regulation (30th), renewable energy regulation (30th), road connectivity (22nd), airport connectivity (15th), liner shipping connectivity (34th), electricity access (% of population) (2nd), debt dynamics (36), trade openness (27), ease of hiring foreign labor (48), financial stability (30), cluster development (36), among others.
Mexico is ranked in 60th place overall, out of 190 economies, and is one of the top business-friendly environments in Latin America, only behind Chile that ranks in the 59th position. Mexico’s top three topics or indicators are getting credit (11th), resolving insolvency (33), and contract enforcement (43rd).
As a result of strong legal rights in relation to collateral laws (securities) as well as a robust credit reporting system, Mexico outperforms most economies in getting credit. Mexico also has a decent performance in the resolving insolvency and contract enforcement indicators, particularly, due to time to carry out a dispute in a court (under certain assumptions) and strength of insolvency framework index.
Unsurprisingly, Mexico underperforms in the Institution and Labor Market pillars of the WEF’s Global Competitiveness Index 2019. Although serious legislative steps have been made on security, corruption, and “regulatory improvement”, Mexico continues to rank particularly low in a handful of matters that fall under the Institution pillar such as security (138th), burden of government regulation (116th), judicial efficiency (116th), judicial independence (103rd), as well as incidence to corruption (116th).
Insecurity is a concern not only for foreign investors. We note that the new administration has pushed for constitutional and legal reforms that have overhauled security bodies, the attorney general’s office, and powers to the Tax Authority (SAT, acronym in Spanish) against tax evasion schemes. The Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF, acronym in Spanish) has been tackling high profile individuals and companies that are allegedly involved in laundering money or in corrupt practices.
As for the Labor Market pillar, Mexico underperforms in redundancy costs (e.g. severance of labor contracts) (103rd), as well as labour tax rates (116). Needless to say, Mexican Labor Law has undergone a significant overhaul as a result of USMCA’s Labor Chapter, which seeks to protect collective labor rights. However, neither redundancy costs nor labor tax rates (i.e. a state tax) were addressed in such reform.
Known to have a complicated tax environment, Mexico is ranked in the 120th position out of 190 economies in the Paying Taxes topic of WB’s Doing Business 2020. Under normal circumstances, a company would have to pay six taxes throughout the year, namely corporate income tax, value-added tax, security social contributions, payroll tax, property tax*, and vehicle tax*.
Despite a low number of tax payments as compared to other jurisdictions, Mexico’s tax environment is poorly ranked especially due to (1) total tax and contribution rate and (2) the post-filing index. For instance, Mexico’s statutory tax rates for the corporate income and VAT, which are the most time consuming and prone to tax audits, are set at 30% and 16% respectively. Furthermore, VAT refunds or income tax corrections take a considerable amount of time and effort.
Mexico’s also underperforms in Starting a Business (107th). Though starting a business is discussed in the Chapter – Creating a Company in Mexico, the process to incorporate a company appears, in its face, straightforward in Mexico. According to the guide, a non-foreign entrepreneur has to complete eight procedures to incorporate a company and to have all registrations in order; however, a significant practical hurdle is that concerning to the company’s registration before SAT.
Likewise, the number of procedures and time are factors that negatively affect Mexico’s score in Getting Electricity (106th), meanwhile the number of procedures, cost, among other matters, influence Mexico’s negative performance in Registering Property (105th).
Mexico’s foreign direct investment (FDI) and international trade are, to a great extent, attributable to the established manufacturing sector, which convinces foreign investors to invest in Mexico. According to UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2020, Mexico is the 14th country with most FDI inflows in the world in 2019. In sum, Mexico is a top FDI destination.
As noted by the WEF, Mexico has a strong cluster development. This feature explains why almost half of Mexico’s FDI inflows are related to the manufacturing sector.
Investment Inflows in the Mexican Manufacturing Sector
The top five manufacturing sub-sectors that have attracted investment from 1999 to 2019 are (1) transport equipment (e.g. auto), (2) beverages and tobacco, (3) chemical, (4) computer, communication, and measurement equipment, and (5) the food industry.
For instance, FDI in the transport equipment (or auto sector) has amounted to 79,053 million USD since 1999, which represents 21% of Mexico’s total foreign direct investment inflows as noted in the table below:
Mexico has different levels of industrialization. In fact, most of the manufacturing sector has established itself in the north and the center of the country. For instance, the (passenger) auto industry and the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) are located in the States as indicated in the image below.
International Trade and Manufactured Goods
Establishing itself as an important manufacturing hub, Mexico is an economy with a significant presence in international trade. Mexico ranks in 12th place among world economies in both exports and imports, its trade balance amounts to 916 billion USD in 2019. The World Trade Organization describes Mexico as:
“a ‘buyer’ in GVCs and therefore has a significant rate of GVC backward participation, standing at 36 percent in 2015. The economy imports inputs mostly from the United States and China to produce its exports.”
Mexico’s main exports include (1) manufactured goods, (2) fuels and mining products, (3) agricultural products that amount a total of 461 billion USD.
In 2019, Mexico exported 461 billion USD. Unsurprisingly, Mexico’s main export destination is USA exports amounting to $371 billion USD, followed by the European Union $24 billion USD, Canada $14 billion USD, and China $7 billion USD%.
As for import data, US imports amount to 205.733 billion USD, China 83.052 billion USD, European Union imports amount to 51.237 billion USD, Japan 17.963 billion USD, and Korea 17.649 billion USD
Comparing the US-China trade relations, US exports more goods in value to Mexico than to China. For instance, US exports to China amounted to $106 billion in 2019.
Land in Mexico may be purchased or leased for industrial purposes. Needless to say, Mexican law has restrictions as to the ownership of land when, for instance, it is located in the northern border strip or near the coastline (see our Foreign Investment Chapter)…..
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Mexico limps from security-related matters that affect its competitiveness indicators significantly, which may affect decisions to invest in Mexico. We cannot turn a blind eye on this fact, and foreign investors normally pose the question:
How risky is Mexico?
The American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico (Amcham), which we are members, published…
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 World Trade Organization, World Trade Statistical Review 2019, pg. 43
Our second chapter of Doing Business in Mexico, Foreign Investment, will provide a general overview of the rules and restrictions on foreign capital in Mexico.
This chapter includes the following sections:
Mexico is an open economy that embraces foreign investment. According to foreign direct investment statistics from 1999-2020, almost half of Mexico’s FDI comes from the USA, followed by Spain, Canada, Japan, and Germany.
For more information on FDI inflows per country, see Appendix 1- Table: Top FDI Inflows per Country.
Interestingly, China is a major exporting capital country in the world. In fact, Chinese investment in Latin America and the Caribbean has had a sharp increase in the last years. However, that has not been the case in Mexico. Chinese investment in Mexico only represents around 0.2% of the total investment in Mexico, according to official statistics of the Mexican Ministry of Economy.
As for economic sectors, FDI inflows have focused mainly on the manufacturing sector, followed by financial services, international trade, mining, construction, transportation, and hotel industry. For more information on FDI inflows per the economic sector, see Appendix 2- Table: Top FDI Inflows per Country.
In this chapter, VTZ will provide an overview of the foreign investment restrictions applicable to economic sectors and real estate, the role of the authorities regarding investment authorizations, and the Bilateral Investment Treaties.
As a general rule, foreign investment is authorized without restrictions in the territory of Mexico, unless the Law expressly includes a limitation. In other words, Mexico does not have a special zone where foreign investment rules are more “flexible” as investment promotion policies because it has adopted a “negative list” approach that applies throughout its territory…Read More
From a practical standpoint of view, the Law expressly prohibits foreign investment in “ten” general economic sectors that are classified as “activities reserved to the Mexican State” or “activities reserved to Mexicans”…Read More
The Foreign Investment Law provides the following ownership interests limitations or caps to foreign investors in Mexican enterprises that may not be exceeded directly or indirectly in the following regulated activities:…Read More
Mexico has foreign investment reviews in place, but they differ from those carried out in other jurisdictions. United States, Canada, and China, for instance, have foreign investment reviews that are triggered by “national security” concerns. National security concerns… Read more
The transfer of real estate ownership is subject to several conditions, including where the property is located, the land regime, and the buyer’s legal nature and nationality…Read More
Mexico has a large network of International Investment Agreements, either in the form of a Bilateral Investment Treaty or as an Investment Chapter in a Free Trade Agreement.
An Individual or company, qualifying as an investor, and their “investment” in Mexico may benefit from international protection provided that he or she is from a State that is a party to an international investment agreement with Mexico and that the investment qualifies as such under the relevant agreement….Read More
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The discourse about the trade war between China and the United States has intensified in recent months not only as an electoral strategy but rather it has extended also into other fronts damaging the bilateral relationship. This means that the decoupling of the global economy is likely to continue during the run-up to the elections in the United States; moreover, it may even accelerate once the winner is announced in November 2020.
The Trump administration has adopted a series of measures to stop the expansion of China, for instance, export prohibitions on a wide variety of sensitive products, tariffs, forced relocation of North American companies, and even threatening to withdraw from the WTO. More recently, the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston was announced alleging intellectual property violations and espionage. In retaliation, the Chinese government ordered to close the American consulate in the city of Chengdu, measures that clearly raise the level of the conflict.
However, it is relevant to take into account the complexity to untangle the two largest economies in the world. On the one hand, the restructuring the world economy will have major implications from the destruction of business models to the reconstruction of entire industries. On the other hand, there are geopolitical consequences that are already being drawn on the map.
In this regard, Beijing has made significant efforts to strengthen and consolidate economic ties with emerging markets. Just last week, Foreign Minister Wang Yi held meetings with senior officials in Vietnam, while the conclusion of the negotiations of the Cambodia-China FTA negotiations was announced. In response to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was also announced an important economic aid package for Latin America, which is one of many other ways China is offering support to emerging countries to combat the virus.
On the technological side, despite the fact that several countries have excluded or banned Huawei and other Chinese applications from their telecommunications system, the expansion of information giants, such as Alibaba and Tencent, in different commercial formats has not been stopped. Furthermore, the country continues to promote the local development of 5G and semiconductors, as well as technological infrastructure, to reduce its dependence on other countries.
Regardless of the current internal discussions of the WTO, Mexican companies can continue to depend on the rules and preferential access that Mexico enjoys under its free trade and investment agreements with more than 50 countries. This allows Mexican companies to continue expanding their operation across borders under clear rules.
However, this scenario of trade tensions between China and the United States may have a short and medium-term impact on Mexico’s promotion strategy as an investment destination for the manufacturing sector that seeks to export to the North American markets.
Although it is true that Chinese companies will continue to develop new markets for their products and technologies, it is also clear that there is opposition to US policies within China. This situation is not exclusive to mainland China, but it has also spread to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which has been damaged by recent announcements by the Trump administration.
This week the Global Times newspaper shared the results of a quick online poll asking readers which American consulate would most likely close. 80% of the responses supported the closure of the United States consulate in Hong Kong. Said result reflects a clear anti-American feeling as a result of the US government’s interference in China’s internal affairs.
In this context of political and commercial tensions, it is evident that our closeness and preferential access to the North American market are not enough arguments for Chinese companies to invest in Mexico. By contrast, it is very necessary to update our approach strategy towards Chinese companies and investors, not only positioning the benefits of the USMCA, but also doing an in-depth job of identifying complementation opportunities in commercial, industrial, technological, and investment projects.
On the other hand, it is essential to offer guarantees for Chinese investments in sectors of interest such as mining, energy, infrastructure, and manufacturing; as well as incentives in sectors where there is still very little Chinese presence.
As the US elections approach, the candidates’ speech will intensify and so will the tensions rise between China and the United States and, in consequence, retaliatory measures between both economies. If Mexico, therefore, does not update its strategy and approach with a new speech, such as highlighting our economic openness, commitment to free trade, supply chain integration, privileged geographical location, and legal certainty for investors, our country runs the risk of disappearing from the Chinese map as an attractive investment destination under this scenario.
In accordance with the provisions of the Federal Tax Code, the shareholders of Mexican companies are required to:
The code of the Federal Taxpayer Registry that is assigned to each shareholder must be placed in all documents and procedures, printed or electronic, related to the Tax Administration Service.
In addition, the code of the Federal Taxpayer Registry for each shareholder must be identified in the following documents:
In relation to the above, as of this fiscal year 2020, a notice must also be filed with the tax authorities, informing the name and code of the Federal Taxpayer Registry of the shareholders, every time a modification is made in the stock capital of the company.
As it can be seen, it is important that the shareholders of a Mexican company request its registration in the Federal Taxpayer Registry, since the assigned code must be inserted in a series of legal documents; in addition, the fact of not requesting the registration inscription in the aforementioned Registry when it is obliged to do so, constitutes a tax offense, having as first consequence a penalty, but above all, the company would not be able to access certain tax benefits by not proving that its shareholders are duly registered in the Federal Taxpayer Registry.
However, there is a facility that allows shareholders who reside abroad and participate in Mexican companies, to avoid the request of registration in the Federal Taxpayer Registry, provided that such companies carry out the following:
In the event that the Mexican company does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the foreign shareholder has the legal obligation to request its registration in the Federal Taxpayer Registry.
Please feel free to address Jorge Montes, partner and leader of the Tax Practice Group in VTZ, for any doubts or comments in relation to the above.
(Download the PDF version: here)
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) submitted a paper entitled “Trade and trade diversion effects of United States tariffs on China.” The paper presents interesting facts or findings regarding the US-China trade war, which began early summer 2018. We highlight the following:
Though this may be “positive news” for Mexico, Mexican officials have cautioned that the US-China trade war impacts negatively the global economy and, particularly, the US, Mexico’s most important trading partner.
The Informal Ministerial Meeting of the WTO was held this Tuesday in Shanghai, China, where topics such as investment facilitation and WTO reform were discussed.
The Minister of Economy, Graciela Márquez, supported the initiative regarding investment facilitation, mainly through the streamlining of administrative procedures, as well as the assurance of favorable legal conditions for investors. The Minister stressed that this initiative is consistent with the current administration’s position that seeks to create an investment-friendly environment.
On WTO reform, the Minister shared her thoughts in the journal El Financiero, pointing out the proposed lines of action of the Mexican government.
We highlight that the Minister pointed out that the moment the WTO is going through reflects the crisis of multilateralism and the need to “redefine” the rules of international trade. While the WTO reform is the responsibility of the 164 members, she perceives that it will be “complicated” by the lack of commitment of main actors. The Minister proposes the following three lines of action for the WTO reform:
Today, the reform to the General Health Law, regarding overweight, obesity, and labeling of food and non-alcoholic beverages, was published in the Official Gazette. This reform introduces the Front Warning Labels of food and non-alcoholic beverages that we have reported in our alerts (see Frontal Warning Label and Modification of NOM-051 on Labeling of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages).
According to the second transitory article, regulatory adjustments shall be published in the following 180 days.
This Tuesday Hyun Joon Cho, president of Hyosung Corporation, a Korean Industrial conglomerate, had a private meeting with Mexican President, AMLO, after his morning press conference. Hyosung Corporation’s business lines entail the chemical industry, industrial materials, IT, textiles and construction. News outlets note that the Office of the President did not provide details regarding the meeting. We wonder whether this Korean company is planning to invest in Mexico.
(Download our newsletter in PDF: Trading Room -20190524)
This Wednesday, associations of tomato producers and exporters submitted to the Department of Commerce a new undertaking proposal to avoid antidumping duties. Provisional antidumping duties were imposed as of May, 7. The Underminister of International Trade, Luz María de la Mora, commented that this proposal could be accepted by June and July.
According to news outlets, the purpose of the proposal is to offer US producers more certainty about Mexican tomato imports at “market prices” that do not cause injury, according to the following undertakings:
Producers and exporters submitted a legal remedy against the provisional antidumping duties that will be decided in the next days. If the judgment is favorable, the payment of the provisional antidumping duties will be temporarily suspended.
This Thursday, the Chief of the President’s Office, Alfonso Romo, attended to the “71st Assembly of the Steel and Metallic Chamber (CANACERO).
The Mexican officer shared a “story” about his conversations with the US Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, during the Forum CEO Dialogue. According to Mr. Romo, Mr. Ross requested Mexican officers and businessman to reject Chinese investment in strategic projects. The USA’s idea is to create a strong commercial block that competes with China.
Nevertheless, Mr. Romo commented that Chinese investment is welcome in Mexico. We highlight that the USA’s request opposes the position of the current administration because Mexico has expressed that it is open to Chinese investment in important infrastructure projects, for example, the Mayan train.
The Young Lawyers Committee selected his essay concerning the logic of foreign investment reviews, which he submitted last year for the IBA scholarship of the Antitrust and Trade Section.
The first paragraph of his essay is as follows:
In coral reefs one can find well-defined structures between numerous species, plant and animal, where they are dependent on each other mainly on a cooperative basis, providing stability to the relevant ecosystem. Just like in a coral reef ecosystem, one can also find in the economy, either global, regional or domestic, rules on foreign investment, international trade and competition policy – the coexisting species –– that are somewhat dependent on one another and tend to share a common goal: creating an enabling and sustainable economic environment. If a species is suddenly missing or performing its function poorly, the coral reef or the market will feel and suffer from the inbalance, but if functioning properly, the environment will perform optimally and, thus, be generally successful.