Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Joint U.S.-Canada-Mexico Statement on Strengthening Trade and Economic Relationship | Department of Commerce
Joint U.S.-Canada-Mexico Statement on Strengthening Trade and Economic Relationship | Department of Commerce
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 28, 2013
CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Canadian Minister of International Trade Ed Fast and Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo issued a joint statement on strengthening the three countries’ trade and economic relationship. The ministers participated in a discussion on the topic at the North American Competitiveness and Innovation Conference in San Diego earlier today.
“We, the ministers responsible for International Trade and Commerce for the United States, Canada, and Mexico held a joint meeting in La Jolla, California today, where we were participating in the North American Competitiveness and Innovation Conference. The conference is bringing together government and business leaders to discuss the economic and commercial advances that we have made in the 20 years since NAFTA was implemented, and how we can build on that progress to continue growing our economies and creating jobs.
A generation ago, with NAFTA, the United States, Canada, and Mexico established a new global standard for economic integration. We have achieved thriving commercial relationships and deeply connected supply chains. The North American economy, which is one of the most competitive economic platforms in an increasingly competitive world, remains strong and our workers, businesses and communities continue to thrive.
By demonstrating that increased trade drives job creation and economic growth, we have set a valuable example globally and have built a solid foundation upon which North American competitiveness can continue to be enhanced to the benefit of all our citizens.
We pledge to continue helping our businesses grow and our workers succeed through enhanced regulatory cooperation, and coordinated efforts to facilitate increased trade through many initiatives, including the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. We have committed to ensuring that our competitive advantages as a continent are maintained and enhanced.
We agreed to work on a constructive agenda to strengthen our trade and economic relationship. We are committed to crafting a roadmap that both promotes prosperity across the NAFTA region for the next 20 years and maintains our position as the most competitive region in the world.”
Two decades after passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the top commerce officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico called Monday for strengthening their economic ties, saying a united trade bloc will be key to remaining competitive in an increasingly globalized world.
“How do we build on the success of NAFTA? How do we make sure this region remains an attractive place, and the foremost place in the world to invest?” U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in a Monday interview with U-T San Diego during the North American Competitiveness & Innovation Conference in La Jolla.
Such questions are driving the agenda for the event, which opened Sunday and will end today. The conference brings together government officials from the three countries along with a range of CEOs, trade experts and promoters of cross-border business.
The potential for growth is vast: Taken together, the NAFTA countries represent a population of 460 million and $1 trillion in annual trade — a sum that the U.S. government wants to see doubled, Pritzker said.
The conference, hosted by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, marked the first time the three high-level officials met together.
Following a closed-door meeting with her counterparts, Pritzker joined them — Mexico’s secretary of the economy, Ildefonso Guajardo, and Ed Fast, Canada’s minister of international trade — for a panel discussion before a luncheon audience of 400 people.
“The supply chains that wrap themselves around the globe in a globalized economy have changed the game for all of us,” Fast said. “Our challenge is to take NAFTA, which was an incredible foundation to build upon, and move our trilateral relationship to a new level.”
To move forward, participants cited the need for addressing issues such as making border infrastructure upgrades, facilitating labor mobility across borders and collaborating on regulatory frameworks.
Guajardo said because of NAFTA, “the economic geography of Mexico has changed radically.” At the time of the agreement’s signing, manufacturing represented only 15 percent of the country’s exports — compared with 85 percent today, he said.
But NAFTA’S benefits have been uneven in Mexico, Guajardo said, with border regions and central states such as Queretaro “tremendously transformed” while in other states such as Oaxaca, Guerrero and Campeche, “you don’t see the effect. ... It’s like you have two Mexicos.”
Major reforms being proposed for the energy, education and tax systems will help bring improvements to the country’s poorer regions, Guajardo said.
The conference’s coordinators aim to raise the visibility of NAFTA’s successes and build support for increased collaboration among the partner countries.
“NAFTA has been very successful, but it’s yesterday’s news in some respects,” said Laura Dawson, a former Canadian trade official and currently a consultant on cross-border trade. “We can only do better internationally if we consolidate our competitiveness at home.”
Charles Shapiro, president of the Institute of the Americas at UC San Diego, called for returning the focus to North America on trade issues. “We’ve all fallen in love with East Asia, we’re falling in love with Europe, but the key point we need is to make this relationship work so that we can negotiate as a bloc.”
Looking ahead means adapting to a world that has changed rapidly in the past two decades, conference participants said.
“NAFTA was a market-access agreement” that focused on removing quotas and customs duties that limited the movement of goods across borders, said Patrick Kilbride, executive director of Americas Strategic Policy Initiatives for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Now we’re much more focused on integration issues like the ability to provide services across borders, the ability to finance projects across borders, to have supply chains go back and forth across San Diego and Tijuana, for instance.”
Chris Sands, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., said much remains to be done. “We have conflicting regulations, border security that’s become quite militarized. We’ve got a witch hunt for illegal aliens going on rather than having a dialogue about labor and mobility and how do we get jobs to people who need them,” he said. “A single North American market has not been realized.”
Monday’s conference schedule included panels on public-private partnerships, tourism, clean energy and green technologies, and the automotive and aerospace industries.
Today, interim San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante and Eddie Francis, mayor of Windsor, Ontario, are scheduled to participate in a discussion on regional innovation and competitiveness. Other panels will focus on specific cross-border regions and the role of media.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Alvarez, a Democrat, is a first-term councilman who represents the city’s southernmost neighborhoods.
By Curt Prendergast Nogales International | Posted: Friday, October 25, 2013 7:23 am
Nohe Garcia’s face lights up when he starts talking about his vision for Nogales, particularly the businesses his 215-acre development near Mariposa Road could bring to the city.
He is carving an industrial park out of the rolling hills northwest of the Mariposa Port of Entry in anticipation of the $200-million port expansion, slated for completion next year, and the increased cross-border flow of products from the growing assembly plant industry south of the border.
Garcia’s 215-acre spread, known as the La Loma Grande project, will be a hefty addition to the industrial area along Mariposa Road, adding large lots that could be used by manufacturers, border logistics companies, produce distributors, and customs officers, among others.
His is just one of several industrial projects being planned along the corridor stretching north from the port of entry, according to city of Nogales building records.
Long-time Nogales customs house Suarez Brokerage is planning to build a 38,000-square-foot office and warehouse facility on North Calle Cobre, just off of Mariposa Ranch Road. And a mile north of the La Loma Grande project, Maval Warehouse is expanding its operations to include a new 25,000-square-foot warehouse on Industrial Park Drive, said owner Marco Valenzuela.
The company deals primarily in cross-border trade, such as importing fruits and vegetables from Mexico and shipping automobile parts and raw materials to foreign-owned factories in Sonora, he said.
The expanded Mariposa Port of Entry promises to increase cross-border trade, making the decision to build a new warehouse a simple one, Valenzuela said. “Because of expanding business we are foreseeing that we will require more capacity,” he said.
Also in the works is a 90,000-square foot produce warehouse on North Target Range Road, according to city building records. Other projects, such as a 100,000-square-foot warehouse and a 5,000-square-foot office complex, both on Freeport Drive, are still in the preliminary permitting phases.
As Garcia walked around the La Loma Grande property, he pointed out a long, curving road that creates a loop from the existing industrial park on Mariposa Ranch Road, through the property, and then back to Mariposa Road.
“The loop is what gives life to the development,” he said, adding the loop will be as wide as Mariposa Road so that tractor-trailers can pass easily through La Loma Grande.
His hope is that tractor-trailers will be making the rounds through the development for customs brokers, logistics companies, and any other company that wants to set up shop near the expanded port of entry.
For Garcia, the port expansion already is bringing positive feedback from potential investors. “For a couple of years there was nobody calling. Now, people are calling,” he said.
The port serves as “a very important link in our logistics corridor,” he said. “It’ll give us the possibility for real growth.”
In particular, the port should ease the crossing of products from the growing assembly plant industry in Sonoran cities such as Nogales and Guaymas, which could mean more products passing through Nogales in coming years, Garcia said.
By January, Garcia expects his project to be far enough along to show businesses the first round of properties, which he said would be seven acres each, although they could be expanded if the client so desired.
The development’s large lots will allow Nogales to better compete with other ports of entry on the border, such as Otay Mesa in California and Laredo, Texas, he said. “We need to compete with them and Nogales doesn’t have any large lots,” he said.
Garcia is also working to bring what he calls “value-added manufacturing” to Nogales, in which an existing assembly plant in Nogales, Sonora sends products across the border for finishing or packaging, an idea that is in line with a recent University of Arizona study of Santa Cruz County businesses that called for greater integration with the plants south of the border.
Mexico is fast becoming a major player in the “nearshoring” sector for tech and business process exporting. During a recent trip to the city of Guadalajara I visited the Centro del Software, an incubation hub for start-up tech companies. In an article for Americas Quarterly called “Mexico’s Silicon Valley” Iexplained “Mexico is quietly emerging as a capital of Latin America’s growing information technology (IT) outsourcing industry.”
With more than 600,000 people already working in IT and another 65,000 new professionals graduating each year from the country’s technical and engineering schools the U.S.’s southern neighbor is already home to more than 2,000 IT companies. Tech companies in Mexico range in size from start-ups like the ones in Guadalajara’s Centro del Software to veteran industry heavyweights such as Xerox, Softek, HP, IBM, and Intel. During a recent visit to the border city Ciudad Juarez I walked through the call center at Genpact, a subsidiary of Xerox and also visited several other tech companies. In Juarez, the IT and BPO sector is growing. While IBM and HP, global heavyweights that reported $104.5 billion and $120.4 billion in revenues in 2012, have a presence in Mexico, there is also a growing space for smaller companies.
For instance, Infolink, a company which handles customer service and product support for US software companies tripled its work force between 2011 and 2012. The company and now employs more than 100 English-speaking engineers and customer support specialists in its Juarez office.
As I explained in an article for The Global Post, “Affiliated Computer Services Inc., or ACS, a business process outsourcing company, now employs 3,000 people in Juarez.” ACS senior executive Miguel Hidalgo told me that the company processes and shuttles 16,000 pounds of documents back and forth across the US border in vans every day, helping to contribute to the $22.4 billion in revenues that Xerox earned in 2012. In addition to established IT and BPO hubs such as Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Juarez Mexico has a number of other cities that are pushing into the sector.
In a recent article for Nearshore Americas I explain, “While lesser known for outsourcing than cities such as Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City, Puebla has a strong industrial base that a number of entrepreneurs are using as a launching pad for business process exporting companies.”
Edgar Moreno, a public policy analyst and Latin America-focused political risk specialist from Impacto Social Consultores, who grew up in Puebla, told me“the state has huge strengths in high skilled workers. Five of the top hundred universities in Latin America are based in Puebla, all of them offer several options to pursue careers in engineering, communications, and technology.”
“Plus the incumbent governor is promoting pro-business regulations and working to attract more long-term, capital-intensive, and high-tech investment projects to Puebla,” Moreno added.
In my article for Nearshore Americas I explain “Puebla’s capital city, with 1.5 million residents, is the fourth largest metropolis in Mexico. Situated on the trade route between Mexico City and the port of Veracruz, Puebla was designed and built up by the Spanish during the colonial era. Many of the city’s historic buildings still stand, but today trucks carry automobiles and auto parts along the trade route between the coast and Mexico City.” Overall, industry serves as the major engine of Puebla’s economy, the sector accounts for about 80 percent of the state’s total economic output.”
Ulises Mejia, the CEO of Evolucione, a human resources and payroll outsourcing company that directly employs 100 people and pays 2,000 contract workers in Puebla, told me that the automotive sector can provide opportunities for IT and BPO support services. “We have Volkswagen and Audi here,” he said.
Juan Pablo Jimenez, the head of the Puebla office of Mexico’s federal government’s Ministry of Economy explained, “Puebla has enough strength to develop a strong service outsourcing and business process outsourcing sector.”
According to Fernando Macias, CEO of Validata, a company with a sales office in Austin Texas that runs an operation a total of 800 employees in Puebla and Mexico City that provides document processing services to U.S. financial sector clients, “As a location for BPO businesses, Puebla stacks up well.”
“There are a lot of call centers here and several very prestigious universities here,” he told me.
Daniela Dibs, a communications representative from Endeavor, a non-profit whose Puebla office works to foment small business growth and provide entrepreneurs with consulting and mentorship told me that in Puebla’s nearshoring sector, “what we see is consulting more than business process outsourcing.”
Perhaps what Puebla needs is an incubator to help small start-ups grow. During my visit to Guadalajara’s Centro del Software, Jesus Michel, an executive at IBM de Mexico, told me that due to a “triple play of collaboration between the government, private businesses and universities Guadalajara is becoming the Silicon Valley of Mexico.”
Angel Banuelos, one of the cofounders of a Centro del Software based company called MasFusion, told me “The Centro del Software is an ecosystem,” a place where young tech entrepreneurs can learn the real world business skills that are difficult to acquire in a classroom. “It’s helped a lot to see other [businesses] working with big clients,” Banuelos said. The tech sector has emerged as an important part of the economy in Guadalajara. Entrepreneurs in Puebla are trying to follow suit.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Transcript of a recent podcast focused towards Canadian manufacturers and manufacturing in Mexico follows:
Looking to cut costs by manufacturing abroad? Good idea. But where are you going to go, and how can you be sure the investment you make in your chosen foreign market will pay off?
Canadians have many options of course, and one of those is Mexico. Today we are looking at how Canadian companies can determine if Mexico is right for them, and, if it is, how they can set up a presence there and do it right.
I’m Michael Mancini, Editor-in-Chief of CanadExport, the official e-magazine of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Canada’s most extensive network of international business professionals.
With me on the phone is Brad Knight of Riverwood Solutions. Mr. Knight brings more than 25 years of international manufacturing and operations experience, working with original equipment manufacturers and electronic manufacturing service providers in six countries.
Brad, thanks for being here.
Brad Knight: My pleasure.
Michael Mancini: Given your experience, why would Mexico be an attractive option for Canadian firms?
Brad Knight: I think that one of the benefits Mexico brings is a substantial, well-educated labour base right next to the largest market in the world. So literally across the border from Mexico, your labour rates quadruple or more. And since 2000-2010, in that time period, we’ve seen a lot of investment in companies actually designing products and building complex subsystems down in Mexico. So they’ve sort of moved their way up the food chain. The auto industry and aerospace industry are good examples of people making major investments in Mexico to design, build and fabricate in-country.
Michael Mancini: Now, it seems to me that this is maybe mostly attractive for large firms, multinationals. How realistic is a manufacturing set-up in Mexico for smaller or medium-size enterprises?
Brad Knight: Well, you know, the – as the big boys come in, what usually happens is they drag their supply chain with them. And that’s an excellent opportunity for a smaller firm to come in, in support of one of the major multinationals. There’s also the EMS industry, the electronic manufacturing service sector is extremely well represented in Mexico. So if your product is small and you’d like economies of scale, and you don’t want to have to do the toils and tribulations of building your own facility down there, you can always come in through somebody else’s services, like a contract manufacturer.
Michael Mancini: OK, so what would a Canadian company assess when figuring out if Mexico is right for them?
Brad Knight: You know, I think if it’s an in-house versus a out-of-house decision, one of the most basic is the amount of labour that you have to put in your product to build it. If labour is a significant percentage of your product cost, or you have a significant amount of labour involved in production, then I think you need to be thinking about lower-cost regions for that assembly. If you’ve made that decision, then you need to think about the size, the bulk and the mass of this product. If it’s big and bulky, that will force you onto the surface if you’re coming across an ocean, which then adds a lot of time to the process.
Another component to measure in here is whether you have a significant reverse logistics requirement. If you need spare parts, if you need labour to fix your broken thing, then being geographically located close to your end-market certainly is advantageous.
Michael Mancini: How big should one’s operation be here in Canada for you to even begin to think that a move to Mexico will actually be worth it?
Brad Knight: I think one of the difficulties with that is most people are in the “aspire-to-be” mode. And so if you – if your total sales are insignificant today but your product is the next thing, you really need to be planning for production at volume. So I think my answer on that varies on the actual growth plan of your project. If you don’t build many of these things and you don’t put much labour into those things, you’re probably in a very competitive place where you are.
If you put quite a bit of labour in it and you don’t build many of them, you’re going to spend a lot of money working with logistics, getting to and from the – you know, working from your headquarters with your Mexican facility, and there’s quite a bit of money involved in moving engineers back and forth and training and programs. So you really need enough scale to justify the expense of the set-up. Normally what happens, though, is everybody’s planning on building more and more and more every quarter. And so you sort of need to project that into the future and say well, you know, I only do a million dollars’ revenue this year, but next year I’m going to do ten. Where in that curve does my reduction in labour justify the investment? So I think you got to do some math on that one.
Michael Mancini: OK. Well, let’s talk about the options that we can consider.
Brad Knight: Well, I think you really have two choices that are blatantly clear. One is you could build your own facility. Now – well, there’s three. You can build your own facility down there, you can employ a shelter corporation, or you can outsource your product’s manufacturing to somebody else.
So I think what’s happened over the last 20 years is the rise of the multinational contract manufacturers has made it so competitive. In years gone by, people like Hewlett-Packard and IBM have sold their entire manufacturing complexes—and Motorola too – have moved all their manufacturing complexes off, sold entire facilities, product lines and everything to the EMS sector. And what’s happening is, is these very, very heavily automated facilities just get more competitive at scale.
It also allows the EMS to use some of this capital equipment for you for a couple of hours a day because that’s all the demand you have, and still use that equipment for somebody else during the day, so they can even load the capital equipment. And what’s happened literally over the last ten years is it’s almost prohibitive to build your own facility unless you have some niche that few can help you with, and then you got to sort of go it alone. But there’s less and less of that happening.
Literally – because the larger players aren’t doing that, it’s almost impossible for the little guys to do that. And so what the little guy can do is jump on the coattails of the big guy and use the economies of scale of this infrastructure that’s been in place to serve the RIMs and the Apples of the world, and you can niche a little corner off to build your products. I’m very pro EMS sector.
Michael Mancini: Now, you also talked about a corporate shelter service. What is that, and what does that involve?
Brad Knight: Well, there are companies in Mexico who will literally, say, own a building. They have infrastructure, power, electricity, sewer, water. And you can come in and say I would like to rent 4,000 square feet from you. Maybe it needs to be air conditioned, I need 250 employees. And that shelter company will hire the employees for you, they’ll manage the employees, they’ll manage the facility infrastructure. You bring in your technical competence and your product, and perhaps your capital equipment, and you have a ready-made facility sitting there for you. It’s a nice stepping stone to getting into your own facility. So some big companies even use a shelter company as a way to enter a market. Because in the end, if it doesn’t work out for you, really all’s you owe is a long-term lease to the shelter company.
Michael Mancini: Right. Would you say that this is perhaps a very attractive option for SMEs?
Brad Knight: You know, I think it’s one of the safer options for an SME, though if you’re in – if you’re in a sector serviced by the contract manufacturing, the – by design the industry only demands four or five percent profit margins. So you don’t have to share much So I think the shelter organizations, if you’re thinking that you’re going to have a very large facility yourself because your economies work that way, I think a shelter organization is absolutely the way to get started – or one excellent way to get started.
Michael Mancini: OK.
Brad Knight: You know, like if you’re going to move anywhere in the country, if you’re going to build a facility anywhere in the world, if you’re going to build a facility, the infrastructure support is critical. And how much power’s at the curb? Is there power at the curb? When we built in Guadalajara, Mexico we had to run seven miles of high-tension electrical out to our campus. Billions of dollars. We also had to put in our own sewer treatment facility. So we were out there treating our own sewer, making our own electricity. It makes it much more difficult making this decision with wildcard variables like, can I get access to a data line. You come into a shelter organization or a contract manufacturing, all that infrastructure’s in place. You can touch it, you know it’s there, you know how much it’s going to cost, and you can begin using it immediately.
Michael Mancini: What are some of the main differences in terms of cost?
Brad Knight: Yes. Normally the shelter costs are individual, and you commit to them individually, like I need 5,000 square feet of space. So that’s kind of tricky. Do you need 5,000 square feet of space, or do you really need 10,000 square feet of space? And I might need 3,000 square feet today but I need 15,000 square feet in two years. So trying to understand that in a shelter organization is the variables in the cost. The building probably costs the same, the labour costs the same. The margins will be a little higher in the shelter business than the contract manufacturing.
But with the contract manufacturing solution, they price by unit price. They come back and say your handset is a hundred dollars if you buy 10,000 of them, it’s 97 cents if you buy a hundred thousand of them. So it’s much easier for you to run your business with the known variables of cost per product than it is the unknown variables of infrastructure.
Michael Mancini: And how long would it take to set up this corporate shelter corporation?
Brad Knight: You know, if you go into a shelter corporation, if they have space available it can happen very, very rapidly. That’s one of their biggest advantages, is they have facilities wired, plumbed and ready to operate. And so literally weeks and you could be building something in Mexico under the shelter organization. If you were going to build your own facility, when we built the Flextronics campus in Mexico we bought land in August and began first articles on the 4th of July the next year.
But that was, you know, a major effort. There were three, 400 contractors on that campus.
Actually the contract manufacturing option, you don’t worry about any of that. That’s the – that’s the problem of the EMS, is he has to hire the people, he has to worry about the duties, he has to worry about the taxes, working with the unions. All of that happens with the contract manufacturer or the shelter organization. Now, with the contract manufacturer, you literally say I want 10,000 cell phones please, and negotiate when you’re going to get them. With a shelter organization, you say I need 10,000 square feet and 300 people to build 10,000 cell phones. And then if you go do it yourself, you need to worry about the permitting, the building, the construction - everything falls upon you and your responsibility to figure that out.
So in the progression of regulation ease, I guess you would say, the contract manufacturer, you can literally place a purchase order with their parent group and they worry about the rest of it. The shelter organization, you’re more intimately involved with the technology and the production of the product, but you’ve sheltered yourself from the real estate and the labour issues. And then the most complicated of all is to go down and buy a piece of land.
Michael Mancini: Brad, thanks for taking the time to chat today.
Brad Knight: You’re welcome. Any way we can help, please give us a call.
That was Brad Knight of Riverwood Solutions speaking to me from Las Vegas.
Well, that’s all for this podcast edition of CanadExport. Go to CanadExport.gc.ca for more audio podcasts and feature articles on international business topics.
You should also visit TradeCommissioner.gc.ca for more information on how our trade commissioners can help you in Mexico.
You can also stay connected to us and other leading Canadian companies by joining the Trade Commissioner Service Group on Linked In. So go to LinkedIn.com and search for the TCS.
I’m Michael Mancini signing off for now.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
When Audi chose Mexico for its first factory in the Americas this year, it left Southeast U.S. states wanting.
Tennessee, home to parent company Volkswagen AG's 2-year-old plant churning out diesel-powered Passat sedans just across the Georgia border in Chattanooga, was especially chagrined to see the $1.3 billion investment head south of the Rio Grande.
As China's competitiveness declines due to rising labor and shipping costs, Mexico's manufacturing star has once again risen.
Not only does the country enjoy convenient and duty-free access to the world's largest economy, but it also boasts low labor costs and has undertaken a set of sweeping reforms under President Enrique Peña Nieto. Of course, free trade agreements with powerhouses like Brazil and the EU haven't hurt.
Southern U.S. states hoping to capitalize on a U.S. manufacturing renaissance now find themselves competing with one of their key trading partners for investment projects. Instead of just Alabama and South Carolina, Georgia has to reckon with Mexican states like Queretaro and Guanajuato, key aerospace and automotive hubs, respectively.
So are Mexico and the Southeast partners or foes?
Some competition is inevitable, but it the regions can also be complementary, said Moisés Peraza, trade commissioner at ProMexico in Miami.
"We are all competitors, but not necessarily excluding each other. There are a lot of markets that you can't access through the United States and be competitive that you can through Mexico," Mr. Peraza said while visiting Atlanta for a business seminar at the Consulate General of Mexico Oct. 17.
For instance, Mr. Peraza envisioned American products being made in Mexico and sold in growing Latin American markets like Colombia, Chile and Brazil, where Chinese products have made inroads.
Alejandro Coss, president of the Latin-American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, added that the supply chains of many companies are also integrated across the U.S.-Mexico border, said
Of the top five products represented in the $216.3 billion worth of U.S. exports to Mexico in 2012 - machinery, electrical machinery, mineral and fuel oil, vehicles and plastic - all except one were also present in the top five import categories, Mr. Coss noted.
That shows that the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, which will see its 20-year anniversary next year, has created ties that so strong that they're sometimes taken for granted, Mr. Coss said.
"The relationship that the U.S. has with Mexico is not only very deep, but it is also very special," he said.
Georgia-based companies are using Mexico in a variety of ways.
Delta Air Lines Inc. sees the country as one of its key aviation markets and has even taken a 4 percent stake in its alliance partner, AeroMexico. The partner airlines last year invested in a new maintenance facility in Queretaro. Savannah-based Gulfstream Aerospace, the private-jet manufacturer, also has operations in the Mexican state.
Duluth-based AGCO Corp. entered Mexico in 1992 when it acquired the Massey Ferguson tractor brand, moving its factory to Queretaro in 1997. After selling some Brazil-made tractors in Mexico, making full use of the countries' FTA, AGCO is now making 10,000 tractors per year in Mexico with more than 100 employees.
"It is very interesting how Mexico is transforming into a country that offers a hub in multiple industries from all over the world," said Francisco Vidales, AGCO's business process manager for global purchasing, who spoke at the seminar.
It takes stories like these to reconfigure the stereotypes many Americans hold toward their southern neighbor, Mr. Peraza, the trade commissioner, told Global Atlanta.
"The biggest misconception is that we still ride donkeys and wear big hats," he said.
After growing at 3.8 percent last year, Mexico has revised growth projections downward to 1.2 percent for 2013, expecting growth to pick up again next year as the U.S. economy gains steam. About 80 percent of Mexico's exports go to the United States.
Monday, October 21, 2013
(Reuters) - The Mexican auto industry is about to go on a $10 billion factory building spree, illustrating the nation's rising economic challenge to rivals from the United States to China.
Japanese and German auto manufacturers are spearheading the drive, say parts suppliers and researchers who see more auto factories built south of the border than in the United States between now and the end of the decade.
The United States will consume the vast majority of the new cars, but Mexico's domestic market has rebounded from a long slump, and in a sign of Mexico's growing global role, auto exports outside of North America will rise faster than those to the United States.
BMW AG, Toyota Motor Corp and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz are expected to announce at least $2 billion of deals in the next year or two, according to supplier and other industry sources. That's on top of nearly $6 billion in announced plants by Nissan Motor Co, Honda Motor Co, Mazda Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG.
U.S. automakers, all of whom have been building cars in Mexico since before World War II, will spend another $1 billion or more to upgrade Mexican plants. And Nissan and VW also are considering expansions at existing factories that could total $1 billion or more, according to sources familiar with their plans.
Mexico "is quickly turning into the China of the West," said Joseph Langley, a senior analyst at Michigan-based research firm IHS Automotive, pointing to Mexico's low wages, a strong supply base and a global web of free-trade agreements.
Mexican auto exports beyond North America are growing even faster than those within, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. They accounted for nearly 30 percent of the 2.4 million exported last year. Altogether Mexico built 3.0 million cars and trucks, according to Automotive News, compared with 10.4 million in the United States and 2.5 million in Canada.
By 2020, Mexico will have the capacity to build one in every four vehicles in North America, up from one in six in 2012, according to IHS.
The investment shift has implications for auto jobs and labor unions north of the border, particularly in Canada, which will see a 20 percent decline in production, IHS projects. Output will soar 62 percent in Mexico.
U.S. auto production will rise 12 percent, and Detroit-based automakers are expanding domestic production by ramping up the pace at existing factories to as many as three shifts running six days a week, said IHS. By those calculations, Mexico is building more auto plants than in the United States or Canada through 2020.
"It's all about lower production costs and lower export costs," said Michael Tracy, principal at the Agile Group, a Michigan-based auto consultancy. "That's what Canada used to be — the place for low-cost manufacturing and shipping. Now, everybody is targeting Mexico."
Mexico's economy is seen growing faster than Brazil's next year, underscoring the success of Mexico's export-driven model versus regional economic powerhouse Brazil's more protectionist policies. The promised auto investment could help Mexico challenge regional dominance byBrazil. Analysts are warning of excess Brazilian auto production capacity within five years.
Suppliers say the Detroit auto makers, with more than half the production capacity in Mexico, have not signaled any plans to expand vehicle output there. But General Motors and Chrysler this year have said they will install additional engine and transmission production capacity in Mexico.
In the competition for jobs with the United States and Canada, "Mexico's momentum, combined with its increasingly dense and capable supply chain, its persistent cost advantage and its trading relationships may give it a leg up," said Brookings Institution researchers in a report released last week.
Auto employment in the U.S. South, where Japanese, German and Korean automakers all operate non-union plants, is holding relatively steady at 18 percent of North American auto workers, according to Brookings.
Pay ranges as low as $12 per hour for temporary workers at plants in the U.S. Southeast, compared with about $35 an hour for skilled union veterans at U.S.-owned plants. Union workers in Canada on average are paid even more; a year ago, GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson described Canada as "the most expensive place to build a car in the world."
But at around $2.50 an hour, manufacturing wages in Mexico are nearly 20 percent cheaper than in China, according to a mid-year Bank of America study. That study put U.S. manufacturing wages at just under $20 an hour, on average.
A shortage of trained engineers and concerns about crime and security may hold back Mexico, according to research firm PwC Autofacts.
Energy costs also are considerably higher than in the United States, but they are lower than in China, according to Boston Consulting Group. And because of Mexico's proximity to the United States and Canada, transportation and logistics costs are lower than for parts coming from China.
The largest producer in Mexico, Nissan, opens its third factory next month, the $2-billion Aguascalientes No.2. Nissan built 683,520 cars in Mexico last year, and the new plant will add capacity for 250,000 more, mostly compact models such as the Nissan Sentra for North America and other markets, company officials said.
Moreover, an expansion of Aguascalientes No.2 is already in planning, according to two sources familiar with Nissan's plans. Slated to open in 2016, the sources said, it likely will be dedicated to production of compact luxury vehicles for Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz, which has a platform- and engine-sharing agreement with Nissan.
Nissan said it had nothing to announce, while a Mercedes spokeswoman said joint production of compact cars was an option, but that no decision had been made.
Nissan also is expanding a complex in Cuernavaca, which will take the automaker's total capacity in Mexico to 1.1 million vehicles a year by 2020, two supplier sources said.
Nissan's closest rival south of the border is Volkswagen, which opened a complex in Puebla in 1967. A new $550-million engine plant in Silao, as well as a $1.3-billion assembly complex in San Jose Chiapa that is slated to be opened in 2016 by VW's Audi subsidiary, will raise total VW group annual capacity by 100,000 vehicles to 850,000 by 2020, according to IHS.
VW and Toyota are battling for global sales leadership, but the Japanese automaker lags well behind its rivals in Mexico, where it has only a small truck assembly facility in Tijuana.
Now, the automaker is scrambling to catch up with its competitors, according to two supplier sources who say Toyota is actively shopping for a site. Toyota executives in recent months have said the company needs additional production capacity in Mexico, without providing specifics. A Toyota spokeswoman said the company "would not comment on any potential plant announcement" in Mexico.
BMW, which operates a U.S. assembly plant in South Carolina, also is shopping prospective plant sites south of the border, according to Mexican government officials.
Supplier sources said BMW already has mapped out a production timetable for Mexico, with a tentative plan to begin assembly operations in late 2017, ramping up annual capacity to 200,000 by 2020.
A BMW spokesman said he had nothing to confirm.
Other vehicle and parts manufacturers are expected to set up shop or expand existing facilities in Mexico by 2020, said Tracy, of the Michigan-based auto consultancy.
IHS's Langley summed it up: "The level of activity in Mexico is insane."
Thursday, October 17, 2013
BY ALEXANDRA ALPER
TLAXCALA, Mexico – Mexican assembly plants have put expansion plans on ice pending a tax overhaul that threatens their perks, but low wages and proximity to the United States should deter any mass exodus to manufacturing rivals like China.
Mexican light assembly factories, or “maquiladoras,” account for nearly two-thirds of Mexico’s non-oil exports at about $196 billion a year and are lobbying hard against a proposed reform they say would kill their advantage over competitors.
Leon Sametz, whose 132-person factory produces stainless steel wire in the central state of Tlaxcala, has delayed the import of a $1.36 million machine that would lift production by a third, worried by plans to scrap key perks for maquiladoras.
“This fiscal reform proposal is a nightmare for us,” said Sametz, whose factory houses ovens that heat steel wire to 1,200 degrees Celsius to lengthen and narrow it for use in watering hoses and speakers.
President Enrique Peña Nieto is seeking to boost an anemic tax take partly by winding back tax breaks such as those for maquiladoras, introduced over the last 50 years to help Mexican-based firms compete with factories in Asia for the U.S. market.
Critics say the tax haven-style benefits are unfair and spur fraud, but factories complain the reform will saddle them with nearly $25 billion in sales tax payments each year that could weigh on cash flow, although they would be reimbursed later.
The reform could also boost maquiladoras’ income tax more than four-fold, by raising the tax rate and the tax base and by reducing deductions, companies say.
Lawmakers are prepared to scale back the sales tax component but it is not clear how far they will go to meet demands from the industry, which has warned firms could relocate if the fiscal overhaul goes through as planned by the end of October.
Still, the government is betting firms will stay put thanks to Mexico’s natural advantages, from low wages to cheap transportation to the United States. Some experts agree.
“It’s ... crocodile tears,” said Ehtisham Ahmad, a senior fellow at the London School of Economics who has advised Mexico to scrap the maquiladora tax regime all together.
“These guys are not going to go away and stop producing.”
MANUFACTURING HUB OR TAX HAVEN?
The maquiladora industry began in 1965 under a tax sweetener program for U.S. firms to set up light assembly plants for export on the border, and grew quickly through the 1990s thanks in part to the NAFTA free trade deal with the U.S. and Canada.
But the firms faced headwinds after China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, luring away companies with low wages and reduced tariffs and grabbing U.S. market share away from Mexico and others.
Mexico then slashed the maquiladora income tax rate from 30 percent to 17.5 percent. The new tax reform would revoke that change, returning the rate to 30 percent.
The proposed reform would also kill a provision that exempts maquiladoras from paying value added tax (VAT) on “temporary” imports if they export the final product, but would require the government to refund the payment at a later date.
That would put new cash flow demands on firms, many of which will face even higher taxes as the government moves to lift VAT in border cities to the national level of 16 percent, from a discounted 11 percent now, the industry says.
“They are making it really expensive for maquiladoras to keep growing at the same pace,” said Ernesto Ocampo, a tax advisor at Ernst y Young. He said two clients had shelved investments fearing cost projections would rise.
The reform would also limit the salaries and benefits maquiladoras can deduct from their income taxes and slap a 10 percent tax on dividends, a common way for corporate parents to repatriate profits, tax experts say.
Trefilados Inoxidables de Mexico, Sametz’s firm, pays its Swiss corporate parent Novametal through dividends, among other methods, a manager said.
The plan would also limit the number of companies that qualify for maquiladora benefits by only allowing companies that export 90 percent of their sales to participate, from the current 10 percent, or $500,000 a year in exports.
Lawmakers have said privately the reform will likely be modified to include a “certification program” allowing factories which export most of their products from paying VAT on imports.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Mon, Oct 14 2013
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Monday praised Mexico's central bank for reining in inflation and keeping financial crises at bay.
In a speech that made no reference to the current outlook for the U.S. economy or monetary policy, Bernanke said transparency and independence had been key to increasing stability in the Mexican economy.
"The changes to the monetary policy framework, along with greater fiscal discipline and the adoption of a more flexible exchange rate, soon bore fruit," Bernanke said in prerecorded video to be aired at a celebration of 20 years of Mexican central bank independence, in Mexico City.
"The improved monetary policy framework, together with other reforms, has thus far helped reduce Mexico's susceptibility to financial crises."
While it is true that Mexico has largely avoided a repeat of the 1994 peso crisis, it was certainly not immune to the deep global recession whose epicenter was Mexico's main trading partner, the United States. As world credit - and trade - ground to a halt, Mexico suffered one of the worst downturns globally.
Now in recovery, the latest setback came from severe flooding that has laid waste to large areas of farmland, destroyed homes and killed dozens of people. The flooding will not tip the country into recession, according to a Reuters poll of economists last week, but the catastrophe has increased the risks of a contraction.
Mexican gross domestic product suffered a surprise decline of 0.7 percent in the second quarter compared with the previous three month period after eking out growth of less than one tenth of a point in the January-March period.
That stumbling performance has put Latin America's second biggest economy on track for its worst year since 2009.
(Reporting By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)