Nearshoring offers hope to grim Mexican freight outlook

US Mexico Cargo
Mexico’s national trucking association CANACAR said the country’s trucking companies saw a 46 percent drop in sales as “cross-border truck traffic is way down.” Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

The short-term outlook for Mexican economic and freight growth is dim, but a revamped North American trade deal and expectations for an accelerated shift of factory production from Asia to Mexico provide plenty of opportunity — if the government can help the private sector seize it.

Despite denials from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s economy is in a recession, Rafael Amiel, director, Latin America and Caribbean economics, IHS Markit, said during a JOC webcast on May 28. Amiel said the outlook for Mexico’s gross domestic product (GDP) is for it to fall more than 10 percent this year, compared with a 7 percent global drop in GDP.

The length and depth of that downturn remain unclear as the COVID-19 pandemic remains unchecked in the world’s 15th largest economy and its largest trading partner, the United States, is also in recession. The country’s “contraction is way below what it was in 2008 and 2009,” Amiel said. “The recession is going to be very deep.”

Mexico’s problems predate the pandemic, however. “Even though the Mexican government does not want to admit that we were in a recession prior to coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19], we were and COVID-19 simply accelerated that,” said Erik Markeset, CEO of Mexico City-based supply chain consultancy Tsol.

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Port Laredo once again the nation’s No. 1 gateway for international trade

Port Laredo

Originally Published in FreightWaves

Port Laredo has regained the No. 1 spot among the nation’s 450 international gateways for trade, topping the Port of Los Angeles for the second time in a year.

During February, Port Laredo recorded $18.6 billion in two-way trade, while the Port of Los Angeles had $17.2 billion, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by WorldCity.

Port Laredo’s new ranking is tied to the ongoing U.S.-China trade war and the coronavirus pandemic that has hurt the Port of Los Angeles, said Ken Roberts, an economist at WorldCity.

“A stunning development the first time, the result of the impact of the U.S.-China trade war on the [Port of Los Angeles], this time it’s the one-two punch of the ongoing trade war and the coronavirus pandemic that has sent it, the U.S. economy and the global economy, reeling,” Roberts said in Forbes.

The Port of Los Angeles fell to second, largely because of its dependence on Chinese imports, Roberts said. The ports trade with the world declined 15.2% in February, according to WorldCity.

Port Laredo, located in South Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border, is made up of four international vehicle bridges, one international rail bridge and an international airport.

Around 16,000 trucks cross the port’s bridges daily, totaling $231.58 billion in imports and exports in 2019.

Port Laredo previously surpassed the Port of Los Angeles in March 2019 as the nation’s number one trade hub. It was the first time in the port’s 168-year history that it ranked first. The Port of Los Angeles regained the top spot a month later in April 2019.

Roberts predicted that Port Laredo will be the leading trade port for the foreseeable future due to its proximity to Mexico, the U.S.-China trade war and the lasting effects of the coronavirus.

Mexico finished 2019 as the leading U.S. trading partner for the first time in history and continues to be the nation’s top trading partner for the first two months of 2020.

“This time, unlike last time, it is not likely to be a one-month aberration,” Roberts said. “Port Laredo passed the Port of Los Angeles before the full brunt of the impact of coronavirus would have even hit the Los Angeles seaport.”

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Mexican officials: wait times at Otay Mesa Port of Entry up to five hours

Delay Times at Port of Entry

Truck wait times on the Mexican side of the Otay Mesa port of entry have jumped as the inspection process lengthens, leaving trucks backed up for hours, said officials in Mexico.

"Both Mexican and American customs are spending more time reviewing the trucks – with wait times between four and four and one-half hours," said Salvador Díaz González, president of the Tijuana-based Industrial Association of Otay Mesa (AIMO).
The long lines for the commercial crossing checkpoint in Otay affects not only the companies and transporters, but also the people who [travel] through the area, since the [trucks] massing invade the surrounding roads, Díaz said in an August 14 report in elimparcial.com.

Carrier wait times in the whole Otay Mesa/Tijuana/San Diego market have been trending up since June 1 – up 30 percent to 133 minutes average per load/unload event per month.

The average wait time for commercial trucks in the market is 126 mins over the last year. This information comes from the FreightWaves SONAR platform.

While traffic may be affected in Tijuana, wait times are not affecting the U.S. side of the border. Wait times are hovering around 40 minutes, as of noon August 14, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

With the FreightWaves SONAR Van Inbound Tender Rejection Index (VITRI.SAN) at 1.81 percent and dropping, carriers are still willing to accept loads into the Otay Mesa/San Diego market. SONAR's Van Outbound Tender Rejection Rate (VOTRI.SAN) is also around 1.81 percent, meaning there are no capacity issues in the market.

Díaz said he understands why officials have been stricter with inspections, but the negative effects are causing lower carrier productivity, more air pollution in the Tijuana area and traffic jams that affect others who drive in the area.

Read the full article here.

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Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Stresses Benefits of Long-Term Highway Bill

Secretary Elaine Chao

June ended with the country's top transportation officer emphasizing that a multiyear highway policy directive from Washington is more beneficial to state agencies than a series of short-term extensions of federal guidelines.

Secretary Elaine Chao drilled down on this point, admittedly obvious to stakeholders, during an in-depth conversation with Hugo Gurdon, editor of The Washington Examiner, on June 26.

"The general pattern is in fact to just have extensions, not full reauthorization. But clearly, the certainty of having a longer time frame is very important to those who are involved in infrastructure," said the secretary, sitting across from the journalist on stage at the Heritage Foundation. "State and local governments, you know, if they know they're going to have this money for five years rather than six months, they can actually plan for the future. So a longer-term horizon is better."

The conservative think tank is a few blocks from the Senate side of the Capitol, where the surface transportation panel on July 10 ideally will kick off the obvious task of determining a strategy for reauthorizing surface transportation policy. The current highway law expires in less than 15 months.

By now, a consensus has been established inside the Beltway that advancing comprehensive infrastructure policy is unlikely this year. Separate press conferences in May from President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing their failed negotiations on a $2 trillion infrastructure measure cemented the notion that top-level infrastructure talks had collapsed.

Since then, Trump has focused on immigration policy. Pelosi has pressed forward with investigations into Trump's political and business worlds. The Republican leadership in the Senate has not proposed an infrastructure measure during Trump's tenure.

Reacting to Gurdon's suggestion that comprehensive infrastructure policy would not advance in the foreseeable future, Chao exclaimed, "I haven't given up hope yet."

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Trade War Update: Port Of Los Angeles No Longer Top ‘Port’ — It’s Laredo

Port of Los Angeles

The Port of Los Angeles is no longer the nation's leading port, further evidence that the U.S.-China trade war is scrambling the deck chairs of U.S. trade.

Laredo, a city of 260,000 hard on the U.S.-Mexico border, is.

In the month of March, the latest U.S. Census Bureau data available, Port Laredo's trade was $20.09 billion while trade through the Los Angeles port's was $19.66 billion. Laredo's trade was up 9.52% from February while the Port of Los Angeles' trade was down 10.01%.

Although it is just one month of trade, and although the Port of Los Angeles remains the nation's top-ranked port year-to-date among the more than 450 airports, seaports and border crossings, it is just one more sign that President Trump's efforts to force change in China's policies is having an impact.

In previous columns, I have written how China went from buying 57% of all U.S. soybeans to dropping 94.75% in one month. I have written about how China went from being the second-leading buyer of U.S. oil to buying none. I have written about how U.S. trade with China fell fasterearlier this year than at any time in at least 17 years. I have written that China now accounts for a lower percentage of U.S. imports than at any time since 2012. And I have written that Mexico is now the United States' leading trade partner, having replace China.

And now this.

At work, in part, is how important Mexico trade is to Laredo and how important China trade is to Los Angeles. Laredo, in particular.

No other port has handled more trade with one country than Laredo does with Mexico, more than $228 billion in 2018. That''s because last year and this year, Mexico has accounted for more than 97% of all Port Laredo trade.

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