Experts say Nuevo Laredo should focus on becoming a logistics and foreign trade hub

Laredo Texas

The Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo should "bet more on logistics and foreign trade" than on attracting more maquiladoras, according to trade experts.

"Nuevo Laredo no longer needs to invest in maquiladoras, because it is a city more oriented towards customs and services," said Cirila Quintero, a professor at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (College of the Northern Border) in Tijuana, Mexico.

The college is a prestigious Mexican institute specializing in teaching and research on border issues. Quintero specializes in the research of Mexico's maquiladora industry.

Quintero was part of a recent study conducted by the Mexico City-based Economic Information Bank (BIE), which indicated in recent years the number of export maquiladoras in Nuevo Laredo has decreased.

Quintero said one reason not to rely too heavily on maquiladoras for economic growth in the future is changing technology.

"I think that if local governments want to bet on the maquiladoras, they should understand that the maquiladoras have already changed and are something else," Quintero said in an interview with Primerahora.com.

Quintero added, "the only ones [maquiladoras] that are going to exist are the ones that are going to export, and many of those are going to be robotized, and the point is that if you want to invest in maquiladoras, you should no longer see them at the local level, but in the case of Nuevo Laredo you have to see Laredo, Texas, and see which sectors in Laredo are developing the most."

Nuevo Laredo – located directly across the U.S.-Mexico border from Laredo, Texas – has 35 maquiladoras that employed 29,878 workers, according to the BIE study. In contrast, in the Mexican cities of Reynosa and Matamoros, maquiladoras are still trending upward.

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What US companies should know about expanding manufacturing to Mexico

manufacturing in Mexico

As of 2019, Mexico is the largest goods trading partner with the U.S. with over $600 billion in imported and exported goods. This relationship has created 1.2 million jobs as of 2015, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Commerce. It's also been reported, as of February 2019, that U.S. trade with Mexico increased 3.36%, while trade with Canada decreased by 4.12% and with China by 13.52%. This illustrates the direct impact of the current administration's trade war with China in particular, which ultimately has had negative repercussions for the U.S.

Generally speaking, products manufactured in Mexico are high-mix, low-volume, such as automotive and aerospace parts. This level of product is more expensive to move from China to North America when compared to shipping from Mexico. They also require more engineering skills than many products manufactured in China, which trend toward low-mix, high-volume, such as sunglasses or clothing.

As a result of Mexico's cost-effectiveness, global companies with a stake in the North American market, including Nestle and the BMW Group, have increased investments in their Mexican factories in recent months. In 2014, Nestle planned a $1 billion investment over five years to build and expand three of its factories in Mexico. And earlier this year, the BMW Group announced its new automotive plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico as a boost to their "regional production flexibility in the Americas."

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Borderlands: CBP opens new fastlane at Laredo’s World Trade Bridge

World Trade Bridge

On August 5, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the completion of the World Trade Bridge's new Free and Secure Trade (FAST) Lane.

The new $10 million paved lane is for northbound FAST empty tractor-trailers to run directly from the bridge, and will decrease wait times at cargo facilities. The FAST program allows expedited processing of trucks owned by commercial carriers that have completed background checks and fulfill certain eligibility requirements.

"The World Trade Bridge processes on average 16,000 trucks daily, carrying goods valued at more than $300 billion annually," said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo). "The creation of this FAST Lane will streamline trade and promote economic growth in the region."

Around 500 empty trailers will be processed daily and the hours of operation for FAST Lane will be Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

"These improvements serve as vital assets to not only Laredo, but the entire United States economy," said Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz.
CBP officials estimate they process around 8,000 northbound truckloads daily at the World Trade Bridge facility.

"The ever-growing traffic volumes have far exceeded the limits of the present facilities and we will work hand in glove with our stakeholders at the federal, state and local levels to assist with improvements that will facilitate traffic at the busiest cargo facility in the southwest border," said David P. Higgerson, director of field operations at the CBP Laredo Field Office.

There were 195,918 commercial vehicle crossings at the World Trade Bridge in June, representing a 0.7 percent increase from the same time last year, according to the latest data from the city of Laredo.

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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.

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Regional Development Key to a Strong North American Trade Bloc

North American Trade Bloc

For many years now, a concern of mine has been that the purpose of free trade and the agreements that envelop trade between regions has not been properly explained or promoted to communities, especially at the grass roots level.

Recently, Guillermo Malpica, trade commissioner of Mexico and executive director at the American Chamber of Commerce in Monterrey, Mexico, paid San Antonio a visit for a series of roundtables and presentations on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement(USMCA). At an energy sector meeting with Malpica, San Antonio energy industry leaders investing in Mexico were expecting to get a sense of direction and clarity regarding Mexico's energy policies.

One roundtable participant asked "what industries are the winners and the losers" in the USMCA. When you ask questions like these, you are basically taking apart a macroeconomic tool and looking at the individual parts. Separate parts don't work unless they are put together like a precision clock.

These types of agreements are not meant to be dissected. Not unlike the cute little frog you dissected in school, the innards don't look pretty. Trade agreements are macroeconomic tools that are designed to benefit economies. Yes, there were industries that were hit very hard once NAFTA came into play, but those industries were not ready.

The signals were clear when Mexico agreed to enter the General Agreement for Trade and Tariffs GATT in 1978 (today the World Trade Organization). My father, the Deputy Director General for the Foreign Trade Institute of Mexico during the 1970s, would have conferences and meetings with Mexican manufacturers, warning them to be ready to compete, up their quality, and export.

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Mexico first to ratify USMCA trade deal, Trump presses U.S. Congress to do same

USMCA Trade Deal

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico on Wednesday became the first country to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) agreed late last year to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at the behest of U.S. President Donald Trump.

By a vote of 114 in favor to 4 against, Mexico's Senate backed the deal tortuously negotiated between 2017 and 2018 after Trump repeatedly threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if he could not get a better trade agreement for the United States.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had already anticipated ratification this week in the Senate, where his leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) and its allies have a comfortable majority in the 128-member chamber.

There has been little parliamentary opposition in Mexico to trying to safeguard market access to United States, by far Mexico's top export destination, and the trade deal was approved with overwhelming cross-party support in the Senate.

Mexico sends around 80% of its exports to the United States, and Trump last month vowed to impose tariffs on all Mexican goods if Lopez Obrador does not reduce the flow of U.S.-bound illegal immigration from Central America.

Lopez Obrador says he wants to avoid conflict with Trump, but noted at the weekend that the tariff dispute showed Mexico needed to become more economically self-sufficient.

Trump congratulated Lopez Obrador on Twitter for Mexico's approval. "Time for Congress to do the same here!" he wrote.

Lopez Obrador, meanwhile, posted a video on Twitter in which he called the Senate's approval "very good news" and said it augured well for Mexico's relations with the United States.

Canada, which has also fought with Trump over trade, is pressing ahead to ratify the deal. The main question mark hanging over its ratification is in the United States, where Democratic lawmakers have threatened to block the process.

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With U.S.-Mexico reaching agreement, trade tensions at southern border lessen

Mexico/ US Border Crossing
Canadian border with the USA. Canadian customs.

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor • June 10, 2019

With last Friday's news that the United States and Mexico reached a deal that will put off the implementation of tariffs by the United States on Mexico, which it had planned to start today as a countermeasure to what President Trump called an "ongoing illegal immigration crisis" at the Southern border, it is likely cross-border trade stakeholders are breathing a collective sign of relief.

Had the U.S. tariffs come to fruition, it would have begun with the U.S. imposing a 5% tariff on all goods imported from Mexico and then raised to 10% on July 1, 15% on August 1, 2019, to 20% on September 1, 2019 and to 25% on October 1, 2019.

As previously reported, President Trump said in late May that tariffs would permanently remain at the 25% level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal flow of aliens coming through its territory. And he added that if Mexico fails to act, tariffs will remain at a high level, with Mexican-based companies potentially moving back to the U.S. to make their products and goods, and companies that relocate to the U.S. not subject to tariffs or be otherwise impacted. Trump added that aside from immigration being the primary impetus for these planned tariffs that: "[o]ver the years, Mexico has made massive amounts of money in its dealing with the United States, and this includes the tremendous number of jobs leaving the country."

Well, quickly and fortunately, it looks like things are not going to get to that point, according to a joint declaration issued by the U.S. and Mexico that stated Mexico will "take unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration, to include the deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border."

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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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Freight costs still a concern at U.S.-Mexico border

US/ Mexico border delays

Wait times for trucks importing and exporting cargo across the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped considerably from April crisis levels but industry experts warn threats to the supply chain haven't been eliminated.

"I've been telling my members that maybe this is a blessing in disguise," said Bob Costello, Chief Economist and Vice President of International Trade Policy for the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

Costello, speaking at the annual Global Supply Chain summit hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on May 16, was referring to the backups and delays that ensued at the southern border after President Trump in late Marchthreatened to shut it down in response to immigration issues. The problem was exacerbated when federal cargo inspectors were redeployed from cargo entry ports to help deal with the migration problem.

"[Wait] times have proved significantly, but we now have another reminder of how critical this trade is, and the modes of transportation that have to move it. Sometimes we need those reminders…that if you shut down the border for a week, you're in a recession, I can almost promise you that."

Costello emphasized the importance trade on the southern border is to American trucking and the U.S. economy: 32,000 U.S. truck drivers participate in cross-border freight moves, representing roughly $1.1 billion worth of cargo per day.

The U.S. automotive sector feels delays and border closure threats particularly hard. Shutting down a single assembly line for an hour due to a lack of parts can cost an automaker $1.3 million per day, said Kristin Dziczek, Vice President of Industry, Labor, and Economics for the Center for Automotive Research, who participated on the panel. "You can't make a car without the parts, and some very critical parts are supplied by Mexico and countries south of Mexico. We were predicting the whole [automotive] industry would be down within a week if the southern border is closed."

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Mexico says it is close to U.S. metals tariff deal, waiting for Canada

Mexico Tariffs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mexico is close to resolving its dispute with the United States over steel and aluminum tariffs without quotas but hopes Canada can reach a similar agreement before completing it, a senior Mexican official said on Wednesday.

Jesus Seade, Mexican deputy foreign minister for North America, told Reuters by telephone that a deal to remove the so-called Section 232 tariffs was "very close" but he wanted Canada to be in the same position in its negotiations with Washington.

"What we've been talking about for a week," he said, "is eliminating the 232 without any quotas," noting that it was "very possible" Canada could sign up to a "similar" deal.

Sudden movements in future trade could be handled via a "consultation and monitoring system," he added, noting Mexico still had the option of sealing a deal without Canada.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also expressed optimism about a resolution to the steel dispute, but a top Canadian official avoided direct comment on that possibility.

"I think we are close to an understanding with Mexico and Canada," on resolving the tariffs, Mnuchin said at a U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. He did not provide any details about the potential agreement.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she discussed the tariffs on Canadian metals with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday, but declined to say whether the two countries were close to a deal.

"We made the case as we have been doing for some time that the best outcome for both Canadians and Americans would be to lift those tariffs and to have free trade between our two countries who have this fantastic trading relationship in place," she told reporters after the meeting in Washington.

A USTR spokeswoman declined comment on the meeting.

Asked about prospects for a deal, Freeland said she would not discuss Canada's negotiating strategy. She added that if Washington kept the tariffs in place, it would be "very, very problematic" for Canadian ratification of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal (USMCA).

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