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Mexico

Executive Summary

In 2021, Mexico was the United States’ second largest trading partner in goods and services.  It remains one of our most important investment partners.  Bilateral trade grew 482 percent from 1993-2020, and Mexico is the United States’ second largest export market.  The United States is Mexico’s top source of foreign direct investment (FDI) with a stock of USD 184.9 billion (2020 per the International Monetary Fund’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey).

The Mexican economy averaged 2.1 percent GDP growth from 1994 to 2021, contracted 8.3 percent in 2020 — its largest ever annual decline — and rebounded 5 percent in 2021.  Exports surpassed pre-pandemic levels by five percent thanks to the reopening of the economy and employment recovery.  Still, supply chain shortages in the manufacturing sector, the COVID-19 omicron variant, and increasing inflation caused the economic rebound to decelerate in the second half of 2021.  Mexico’s conservative fiscal policy resulted in a primary deficit of 0.3 percent of GDP in 2021, and the public debt decreased to 50.1 percent from 51.7 percent of GDP in 2020.  The newly appointed Central Bank of Mexico (or Banxico) governor committed to upholding the central bank’s independence.  Inflation surpassed Banxico’s target of 3 percent ± 1 percent at 5.7 percent in 2021.  The administration maintained its commitment to reducing bureaucratic spending to fund an ambitious social spending agenda and priority infrastructure projects, including the Dos Bocas Refinery and Maya Train.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) entered into force July 1, 2020 with Mexico enacting legislation to implement it.  Still, the Lopez Obrador administration has delayed issuance of key regulations across the economy, complicating the operating environment for telecommunications, financial services, and energy sectors.  The Government of Mexico (GOM) considers the USMCA to be a driver of recovery from the COVID-19 economic crisis given its potential to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI) to Mexico.

Investors report the lack of a robust fiscal response to the COVID-19 crisis, regulatory unpredictability, a state-driven economic policy, and the shaky financial health of the state oil company Pemex have contributed to ongoing uncertainties.  The three major ratings agencies (Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard and Poor’s) maintained their sovereign credit ratings for Mexico unchanged from their downgrades in 2020 (BBB-, Baa1, and BBB, lower medium investment grade, respectively).  Moody’s downgraded Pemex’s credit rating by one step to Ba3 (non-investment) July 2021, while Fitch and S&P maintained their ratings (BB- and BBB, lower medium and non-investment grades, respectively.  Banxico cut Mexico’s GDP growth expectations for 2022, to 2.4 from 3.2 percent, as did the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to 2.8 percent from the previous 4 percent estimate in October 2021.  The IMF anticipates weaker domestic demand, ongoing high inflation levels as well as global supply chain disruptions in 2022 to continue impacting the economy.  Moreover, uncertainty about contract enforcement, insecurity, informality, and corruption continue to hinder sustained Mexican economic growth.  Recent efforts to reverse the 2013 energy reforms, including the March 2021 changes to the electricity law (found to not violate the constitution by the supreme court on April 7 but still subject to injunctions in lower courts), the May 2021 changes to the hydrocarbon law (also enjoined by Mexican courts), and the September 2021 constitutional amendment proposal prioritizing generation from the state-owned electric utility CFE, further increase uncertainty.  These factors raise the cost of doing business in Mexico.

Table 1:  Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 124 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi#
Global Innovation Index 2021 55 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $184,911

1st out of top 5

https://data.imf.org/?sk=40313609-
F037-48C1-84B1-E1F1CE54D6D5&
sId=1482331048410
World Bank GNI per capita  (current US$) 2020 $8,480 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are two main SOEs in Mexico, both in the energy sector.  Pemex operates the hydrocarbons (oil and gas) sector, which includes upstream, mid-stream, and downstream operations.  Pemex historically contributed one-third of the Mexican government’s budget but falling output and global oil prices alongside improved revenue collection from other sources have diminished this amount over the past decade to about 8 percent.  The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) operates the electricity sector.  While the GOM maintains state ownership, the 2013 constitutional reforms granted Pemex and CFE management and budget autonomy and greater flexibility to engage in private contracting.

As a result of Mexico’s 2013 energy reform, the private sector is now able to compete with Pemex or enter into competitive contracts, joint ventures, profit sharing agreements, and license contracts with Pemex for hydrocarbon exploration and extraction.  Liberalization of the retail fuel sales market, which Mexico completed in 2017, created significant opportunities for foreign businesses.  Given Pemex frequently raises debt in international markets, its financial statements are regularly audited.  The Natural Resource Governance Institute considers Pemex to be the second most transparent state-owned oil company after Norway’s Equinor.  Pemex’s ten-person Board of Directors contains five government ministers and five independent councilors.  The administration has identified increasing Pemex’s oil, natural gas, and refined fuels production as its chief priority for Mexico’s hydrocarbon sector.  Since taking office in 2018, the administration has taken numerous legal and regulatory steps to limit private competition for Pemex.

Changes to the Mexican constitution in 2013 and 2014 opened power generation and commercial supply to the private sector, allowing companies to compete with CFE.  Mexico held three long-term power auctions since the reforms, in which over 40 contracts were awarded for 7,451 megawatts of energy supply and clean energy certificates.  CFE remains the sole provider of transmission and distribution services and owns all distribution assets.  The 2013 energy reform separated CFE from the National Energy Control Center (CENACE), which controls the national wholesale electricity market and ensures non-discriminatory access to the grid for competitors, though recent actions call into question CENACE’s independence.  Legal and regulatory changes adopted by the Mexican government attempt to modify the rules governing the electricity dispatch order to favor CFE.  Dozens of private companies and non-governmental organizations have successfully sought injunctions against the measures, which they argue discriminate against private participants in the electricity sector.

Independent power generators were authorized to operate in 1992 but were required to sell their output to CFE or use it to self-supply.  Those legacy self-supply contracts have come under criticism with an electricity reform law and proposed constitutional amendment giving the government the ability to cancel contracts it deems fraudulent.  Under the 2013 reform, private power generators may now install and manage interconnections with CFE’s existing state-owned distribution infrastructure.  The 2013 reform also required the government to implement a National Program for the Sustainable Use of Energy as a transition strategy to encourage clean technology and fuel development and reduce pollutant emissions.  The executive administration has identified increasing CFE-owned power generation as its top priority for the utility, breaking from the firm’s recent practice of contracting private firms to build, own, and operate generation facilities.  CFE forced several foreign and domestic companies to renegotiate previously executed gas supply contracts, which raised significant concerns among investors about contract sanctity.

One of the main non-market-based advantages CFE and Pemex receive vis-a-vis private businesses in Mexico is related to access to capital.  In addition to receiving direct budget support from the Secretariat of Finance, both entities also receive implicit credit guarantees from the federal government.  As such, both are able to borrow funds on public markets at below the market rate their corporate risk profiles would normally suggest.  In addition to budgetary support, the CRE and SENER have delayed or halted necessary permits for new private sector gas stations, fuel terminals, fuel imports, and power plants, providing an additional non-market advantage to CFE and Pemex.

Mexico’s 2014 energy reforms liberalized access to these sectors but did not privatize state-owned enterprises.

14. Contact for More Information

William Ayala
AyalaWM@state.gov
Economic Section
U.S. Embassy in Mexico
Paseo de la Reforma 305
Colonia Cuauhtemoc
06500 Mexico, CDMX

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