What Does the New USMCA Look Like for Mexico?

USMCA

August 2017, trade negotiators from the United States, Mexico and Canada met for the first time in Mexico City to begin hashing out a new North American Free Trade Agreement.

Two and a half years and many negotiations later, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has finally passed both chambers of the United States' Congress. The agreement — which overhauls North America's trade relations — is now poised to become U.S. law and the region's governing economic framework, as Mexico's Congress has already passed the deal and Canada's Parliament is expected to follow suit in late January.

While the political negotiations are wrapping up, the next and final step will be the agreement's implementation across North America.

In the coming months and years, these new rules will shape the region's trade realities. Some rules may unleash investment, trade and better labor conditions, but they likely won't be without additional hurdles. In Mexico, the agreement will touch most parts of the country's $1.15 trillion economy, but it will be felt most immediately and strongly in the overall investment climate, the automotive manufacturing sector and in labor conditions.

USMCA Provides Predictability

While less tangible, the agreement's biggest shift will take place at the macroeconomic level, as the USMCA solidifies trade rules and provides greater certainty for North American businesses operating across the continent. Ever since the USMCA's negotiations began, the economic climate has been wracked by uncertainty, especially when specific issues threatened to derail the agreement or every time that the U.S. administration threatened to pull out of NAFTA without any viable alternative.

With the USMCA in place, Mexico has a stronger investment framework and more transparency, clarity and protections for businesses operating in the country.

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Trump signs revised trade deal with Mexico, Canada but shuts Democrats out of celebration

USMCA signing

WASHINGTON – Still facing a divisive impeachment trial in the Senate, President Donald Trump celebrated a rare bipartisan achievement Wednesday when he signed into law a revamped trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

Surrounded by business leaders wearing hard hats, Trump portrayed the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, as "a colossal victory" for American farmers, manufacturers and other workers.

"For the first time in American history, we have replaced a disastrous trade deal that rewarded outsourcing with a truly fair and reciprocal trade deal that will keep jobs, wealth and growth right here in America," Trump said during a signing ceremony on the White House South Lawn.

Trump gave a shout-out to more than two dozen Republican lawmakers whom he credited with helping push the deal through Congress.

Left off of his list of plaudits and missing from the celebration: Congressional Democrats, who put their own stamp on the agreement and whose support was pivotal to helping it secure congressional approval. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office said no Democrats were invited to the ceremony.

The revised trade deal, one of Trump's top legislative priorities, is the product of months of negotiations and replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which essentially eliminated tariffs on most goods traded among the three countries.

The agreement guarantees U.S. farmers greater access to Canada's agriculture market and puts new e-commerce rules in place. It also dictates that a higher percentage of autos be made from parts manufactured in North America and requires that at least 40% of vehicle production be done by workers earning at least $16 per hour.

In addition, the pact, which is supported by labor unions and business groups, includes stronger provisions on labor, enforcement and pharmaceuticals that Democrats had sought as a condition for their approval of the agreement.

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Texas No. 1 in foreign trade during third quarter

foreign trade

Texas continues to be a leader in international trade, ranking No. 1 in exports of manufactured and non-manufactured commodities for the third quarter, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Year-to-date, Texas has exported an estimated $155.8 billion in manufactured goods and $68.7 billion in non-manufactured commodities, ranking it No. 1 in both categories among U.S. states.

The four top states for exports of manufactured goods year-to-date after Texas are California at an estimated $93.7 billion; Michigan, $39 billion; Illinois, $38.8 billion; and Ohio, $35.5 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Exports by Metropolitan Area Report released on Dec. 19.

Mexico was the top destination for exports from Texas at $109.7 billion in 2018, representing 35% of the state's total goods exported, according to the census bureau report as well as data from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Canada was second at $27.5 billion.

Texas has accounted for 16.5% of U.S. exports of manufactured and 34.9% of non-manufactured goods so far this year, according to the bureau's report.

The top manufactured commodities exported by Texas include crude oil and petroleum, propane, liquified natural gas and parts/accessories for automatic data processing machines. The top non-manufactured goods produced in Texas include cattle (beef), cotton, chickens, greenhouse and nursery products and dairy products.

The top imports for Texas during the third quarter were crude oil, computers, car engines, cars and car parts and cell phones.

Houston was the top U.S. metro area in terms of exports in the third quarter at $31.3 billion, according to the study. Houston's economy is closely tied to the energy industry, particularly oil and liquefied natural gas.

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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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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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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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Mexico Border Delays Seen Weighing on US Investment, Factories

Border Delays

More cargo from Mexico to the United States is being held up at the border, accompanied by increasing evidence that such delays are dimming prospects for American companies.

Slower trade between the countries since federal border officers recently were redirected to deal with a surge in migrants has been socking businesses with additional shipping costs. The effects likely will cause a modest headwind for second-quarter nonresidential investment growth — which cooled at the start of the year — and already helped to push a U.S. factory gauge to a two-year low in April, according to Bank of America Corp.

"The delays generate a meaningful direct cost for businesses," economist Stephen Juneau said in an e-mail May 6. The disruption may have a significant impact on the flow of goods, as more than 86% of Mexican imports enter the U.S. by land, and impose some $5.5 million in additional costs on U.S. businesses each month, he wrote in a report May 3.

Trucking company Werner Enterprises Inc. said on an April 25 earnings call that it expects border crossing to be "slow for the foreseeable future."

"Freight is still crossing the border at a very slow rate by comparable standards," said Derek Leathers, CEO of the Omaha, Neb.-based company.

Werner ranks No. 15 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said March 27 that trade processing would slow, with as many as 750 officers from crossings in the San Diego, Tucson, Ariz.; El Paso and Laredo, Texas, regions being re-assigned. President Donald Trump the next day renewed threats to close the border.

The Institute for Supply Management's factory survey last week showed April conditions at the weakest since October 2016, though still expansionary. The production component also fell to a more than two-year low, which Juneau said likely was in part because of border delays.

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China and Canada fall away as Mexico becomes the US’ biggest trading partner

Trade with Mexico

In the trade war with the United States, China's loss is Mexico's gain.

China's bilateral trade with the US weakened in the first quarter of this year after export order front-loading from both countries started to fade. Mexico has taken advantage of
the trade tariffs on Chinese goods to become the US' top trading partner of the US so far this year, according to new data from the US Census Bureau.

This shows that while US President Donald Trump has stood firm on stopping Mexican immigrants on the US' southern border, he has not been able to stop the flow of Mexican goods, which are partially filling the gap left by Chinese goods affected by the trade dispute.

The news comes despite the fact that Trump has been trying to force a revised deal through Congress to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, covering the trilateral trade bloc of Canada, United States, and Mexico.

The US had US$102.5 billion in goods trade with Mexico in the first two months of the year. In second place was Canada at US$97.5 billion and then China at US$96.7 billion, according to seasonally adjusted data from the US Census Bureau. Mexico had been in third place, behind Canada and China.

China's General Administration of Customs has said that from January to March, overall trade with the US fell 11 per cent year on year, to 815.8 billion yuan (US$121 billion). The US is now behind the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in order of
China's biggest trading partners.

China was still the home to most US imports – US$80 billion – but that was down 11 per cent from January-February a year earlier. By contrast, Mexican exports to the US rose 5 per cent to US$58.7 billion over the same period.

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