Trade Guide: Mexico

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Mexico, or the United Mexican States, is the second most populous country in Latin America with over 123 million people. A stable democracy, it has the second highest GDP in the region, after Brazil. Administratively, Mexico is a federation made up of 31 states. Its capital, Mexico City, is home to 20 million inhabitants.

Customs, Technical Standards, and Trade Regulations

For years, the Mexican government had been the primary actor in determining product standards, labeling and certification policy, with little input from the private sector and less from consumers.

In 1992, the Ministry of Economy introduced policies to reverse this situation and shifted the responsibility for the formulation of voluntary standards to the private sector or to mixed commissions. In the process, it undertook an ambitious project to revamp its entire standards and testing system, providing greater transparency and access by the public and interested parties to the standards development process. This also resulted in a reduction of the number of mandatory product standards.

Mexico’s Ministry of Economy, through the Mexican Bureau of Standards, is the main organization with the authority to manage and coordinate the country’s standardization activities.

Mexico has two basic types of standards. The first are the Mexican Official Standards or NOM, which are the country’s technical regulations, including labeling requirements, issued by government agencies and ministries. Compliance with NOMs is mandatory.

The second are Mexican Voluntary Standards or NMX. These are voluntary standards issued by recognized national standards-making bodies. Compliance is mandatory only when a claim is made that a product meets the NMX, when a NOM specifies compliance, or whenever applicable in government procurement.

The primary government departments that develop and set NOMs are: ECONOMIA (Commerce); SAGARPA (Agriculture); STPS (Labor); SCT (Communications and Transportation); SECTUR (Tourism); SEDESOL (Social Development); SEMARNAT (Environment); SENER (Energy); and SSA (Health).

To stay current with Mexican government regulations, foreign businesses are advised to consult the National Standardization Plan, published twice a year by the Mexican Bureau of Standards.

Voluntary standards, or NMX, in contrast, are set by the following organizations: ANCE (Electrical); IMNC (Quality Systems); INNTEX (Textiles); ONNCCE (Construction); NORMEX (Food Products and Quality Systems); and NYCE (Electronics).

All products intended for retail sale in Mexico must bear a label in Spanish prior to their importation to Mexico. Products that are required to comply with commercial and sanitary requirements need to follow the guidelines specified in the applicable NOM, with the name and address of the importer and exporter, trademark or commercial brand name of the product, net contents, and any use, handling, and care instructions, including warnings or precautions on hazardous products.

For customs purposes, NOMs do not explicitly state that country of origin is required on product labels prior to importation. However, Mexican fiscal regulations do require country of origin designation information, and exporters are advised to include this information in Spanish on product labels. 

Trade Policy and Free Trade Agreements

The cornerstone of Mexico’s trade policy is to strengthen the country’s competitiveness and increase its share of world trade through actively participating in the multilateral trading system and concluding preferential trade agreements.

These goals were spelled out in the government’s 2007-12 Sectoral Program for the Economy, which stressed five specific strategies: (1) optimize the existing network of trade agreements; (2) negotiate new agreements; (3) promote convergence between agreements; (4) strengthen the multilateral trading system; and (5) ensure the legal defense of Mexico’s trade interests.

As a founding member of the WTO, Mexico grants most-favored-nation treatment to all its trading partners, including non-WTO members. Mexico is an advocate of concluding the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations and is committed to improving WTO disciplines to ensure the effectiveness of the global trading system.

While it promotes multilateral trade, Mexico is also among the Latin American countries with the largest number of preferential trade agreements. As of 2014, it had 12 free trade agreements in force involving 44 countries. The bulk of Mexico’s trade is carried out with its free trade partners, particularly the U.S. through NAFTA.

While its FTAs involve mainly countries in the Western hemisphere, Mexico has also been aiming to broaden the geographic scope of its trading relationships. In 2000, it became the first Latin American country to conclude FTAs with Israel and the EU. It is also in FTA negotiations with Singapore, Korea, and Japan, as well as with the members of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP).

Although Mexico’s pursuit of FTAs with other countries is a way to bring benefits to its economy while reducing economic dependence on the U.S., so far, its large number of trade agreements has yet to put a significant dent in its overwhelming share of trade with the U.S.

Mexico currently participates in the following FTAs:

  • North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • Costa Rica- Mexico FTA
  • Nicaragua-Mexico FTA
  • Chile-Mexico FTA
  • European Union-Mexico FTA
  • Israel-Mexico FTA
  • EFTA-Mexico FTA
  • Uruguay-Mexico FTA
  • Japan-Mexico FTA
  • Columbia-Mexico FTA
  • Peru-Mexico FTA
  • Central America-Mexico FTA (pending)

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