Mexico is one of the United States’ top trade and investment partners. Bilateral trade grew 650 percent 1993-2018 and Mexico is the United States’ second largest export market and third largest trading partner. The United States is Mexico’s top source of foreign direct investment (FDI) with USD 12.3 billion (2018 flows) or 39 percent of all inflows to Mexico.
The Mexican economy has averaged 2.6 percent economic growth (GDP) 1994-2017. Mexico has benefited since the 1994 Tequila Crisis from credible economic management that has allowed the country to weather a period of low oil prices and significant global volatility. The fiscally prudent 2019 budget targets a one percent primary surplus, and the new government has upheld the Central Bank’s (Bank of Mexico) independence. Inflation at end-2018 was 4.8 percent, an improvement from 6.6 percent at the end of 2017, but still above the Bank of Mexico’s target of 3 percent due to peso depreciation against the U.S. Dollar and higher retail fuel prices caused by government efforts to stimulate competition in that sector.
The United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement ratification prospects for 2019 and a historic change in the Mexican government December 1, 2018 remain key sources of investment uncertainty. The new administration has signaled its commitment to prudent fiscal and monetary policies since taking office. Still, conflicting policies, programs, and communication from the new administration have contributed to ongoing uncertainties, especially related to energy sector reforms and the financial health of state-owned oil company Pemex. Most financial institutions, including the Bank of Mexico, have revised downward Mexico’s GDP growth expectations for 2019 to 1.6 percent (Banxico consensus). Major credit rating agencies have downgraded or put on a negative outlook Mexico’s sovereign and some institutional ratings.
The administration followed through on its campaign promises to cancel the new airport project, cut government employees’ salaries, suspend all energy auctions, and weaken autonomous institutions. Uncertainty about contract enforcement, insecurity, and corruption also continue to hinder Mexican economic growth. These factors raise the cost of doing business in Mexico significantly.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2018||138 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||54 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2018||56 of 126||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2017||$109,700||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2018||$8,610||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Mexico is open to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the vast majority of economic sectors and has consistently been one of the largest emerging market recipients of FDI. Mexico’s macroeconomic stability, large domestic market, growing consumer base, rising skilled labor pool, welcoming business climate, and proximity to the United States all help attract foreign investors.
Historically, the United States has been one of the largest sources of FDI in Mexico. According to Mexico’s Secretariat of Economy, FDI flows to Mexico from the United States totaled USD 12.3 billion in 2018, nearly 39 percent of all inflows to Mexico (USD 31.6 billion). The automotive, aerospace, telecommunications, financial services, and electronics sectors typically receive large amounts of FDI. Most foreign investment flows to northern states near the U.S. border, where most maquiladoras (export-oriented manufacturing and assembly plants) are located, or to Mexico City and the nearby “El Bajio” (e.g. Guanajuato, Queretaro, etc.) region. In the past, foreign investors have overlooked Mexico’s southern states, although that may change if the new administration’s focus on attracting investment to the region gain traction.
The 1993 Foreign Investment Law, last updated in March 2017, governs foreign investment in Mexico. The law is consistent with the foreign investment chapter of NAFTA. It provides national treatment, eliminates performance requirements for most foreign investment projects, and liberalizes criteria for automatic approval of foreign investment. The Foreign Investment Law provides details on which business sectors are open to foreign investors and to what extent. Mexico is also a party to several Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agreements covering foreign investment, notably the Codes of Liberalization of Capital Movements and the National Treatment Instrument.
The new administration stopped funding ProMexico, the government’s investment promotion agency, and is integrating its components into other ministries and offices. PROMTEL, the government agency charged with encouraging investment in the telecom sector, is expected to continue operations with a more limited mandate. Its first director and four other senior staff recently left the agency. In April 2019, the government sent robust participation to the 11th CEO Dialogue and Business Summit for Investment in Mexico sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its Mexican equivalent, CCE. Cabinet-level officials conveyed the Mexican government’s economic development and investment priorities to dozens of CEOs and business leaders.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Mexico reserves certain sectors, in whole or in part, for the State including: petroleum and other hydrocarbons; control of the national electric system, radioactive materials, telegraphic and postal services; nuclear energy generation; coinage and printing of money; and control, supervision, and surveillance of ports of entry. Certain professional and technical services, development banks, and the land transportation of passengers, tourists, and cargo (not including courier and parcel services) are reserved entirely for Mexican nationals. See section six for restrictions on foreign ownership of certain real estate.
Reforms in the energy, power generation, telecommunications, and retail fuel sales sectors have liberalized access for foreign investors. While reforms have not led to the privatization of state-owned enterprises such as Pemex or the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), they have allowed private firms to participate.
Hydrocarbons: Private companies participate in hydrocarbon exploration and extraction activities through contracts with the government under four categories: competitive contracts, joint ventures, profit sharing agreements, and license contracts. All contracts must include a clause stating subsoil hydrocarbons are owned by the State. The government has held four separate bid sessions allowing private companies to bid on exploration and development of oil and gas resources in blocks around the country. In 2017, Mexico successfully auctioned 70 land, shallow, and deep water blocks with significant interest from international oil companies. The Lopez Obrador administration decided to suspend all future auctions until 2022.
Telecommunications: Mexican law states telecommunications and broadcasting activities are public services and the government will at all times maintain ownership of the radio spectrum.
Aviation: The Foreign Investment Law limited foreign ownership of national air transportation to 25 percent until March 2017, when the limit was increased to 49 percent.
Under existing NAFTA provisions, U.S. and Canadian investors receive national and most-favored-nation treatment in setting up operations or acquiring firms in Mexico. Exceptions exist for investments restricted under NAFTA. Currently, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have the right to settle any dispute or claim under NAFTA through international arbitration. Local Mexican governments must also accord national treatment to investors from NAFTA countries.
Approximately 95 percent of all foreign investment transactions do not require government approval. Foreign investments that require government authorization and do not exceed USD 165 million are automatically approved, unless the proposed investment is in a legally reserved sector.
The National Foreign Investment Commission under the Secretariat of the Economy is the government authority that determines whether an investment in restricted sectors may move forward. The Commission has 45 business days after submission of an investment request to make a decision. Criteria for approval include employment and training considerations, and contributions to technology, productivity, and competitiveness. The Commission may reject applications to acquire Mexican companies for national security reasons. The Secretariat of Foreign Relations (SRE) must issue a permit for foreigners to establish or change the nature of Mexican companies.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The World Trade Organization (WTO) completed a trade policy review of Mexico in February 2017 covering the period to year-end 2016. The review noted the positive contributions of reforms implemented 2013-2016 and cited Mexico’s development of “Digital Windows” for clearing customs procedures as a significant new development since the last review.
According to the World Bank, on average registering a foreign-owned company in Mexico requires 11 procedures and 31 days. In 2016, then-President Pena Nieto signed a law creating a new category of simplified businesses called Sociedad for Acciones Simplificadas (SAS). Owners of SASs will be able to register a new company online in 24 hours. The Government of Mexico maintains a business registration website: . Companies operating in Mexico must register with the tax authority (Servicio de Administration y Tributaria or SAT), the Secretariat of the Economy, and the Public Registry. Additionally, companies engaging in international trade must register with the Registry of Importers, while foreign-owned companies must register with the National Registry of Foreign Investments.
In the past, ProMexico was responsible for promoting Mexican outward investment and provided assistance to Mexican firms acquiring or establishing joint ventures with foreign firms, participating in international tenders, and establishing franchise operations, among other services. Various offices at the Secretariat of Economy and the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs now handle these issues. Mexico does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
Bilateral Investment Treaties
On November 30, 2018, leaders of the United States, Mexico, and Canada signed a trade agreement to replace and modernize NAFTA – the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The agreement is now pending ratification by all three countries’ legislatures. The agreement contains an investment chapter.
Mexico has signed 13 FTAs covering 50 countries and 32 Reciprocal Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements covering 33 countries. Mexico is a member of Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which entered into force December 30, 2018. Mexico currently has 29 Bilateral Investment Treaties in force. Mexico and the European Union signed an agreement in principle to revise its FTA.
Bilateral Taxation Treaties
The United States-Mexico Income Tax Convention, which came into effect January 1, 1994, governs bilateral taxation between the two nations. Mexico has negotiated double taxation agreements with 55 countries. Recent reductions in U.S. corporate tax rates may drive a future change to the Mexican fiscal code, but there is no formal legislation under consideration.
3. Legal Regime
International Regulatory Considerations
Generally speaking, the Mexican government has established legal, regulatory, and accounting systems that are transparent and consistent with international norms. Still, the Lopez Obrador administration has publicly questioned the value of specific anti-trust and energy regulators. Furthermore, corruption continues to affect equal enforcement of some regulations. The Lopez Obrador administration has an ambitious plan to centralize government procurement in an effort to root out corruption and generate efficiencies. The administration estimates it can save up to USD 25 billion annually by consolidating government purchases in the Mexican Secretariat of Finance (Hacienda). Under the current decentralized process, more than 70 percent of government contracts are sole-sourced, interagency consolidated purchases are uncommon, and the entire process is susceptible to corruption. The Mexican government’s budget is published online and readily available. The Bank of Mexico also publishes and maintains data about the country’s finances and debt obligations.
The Federal Commission on Regulatory Improvement (COFEMER), within the Secretariat of Economy, is the agency responsible for streamlining federal and sub-national regulation and reducing the regulatory burden on business. Mexican law requires Secretariats and regulatory agencies to conduct impact assessments of proposed regulations. Assessments are made available for public comment via COFEMER’s website: . The official gazette of state and federal laws currently in force in Mexico is publicly available via: .
Mexico’s antitrust agency, the Federal Commission for Economic Competition (COFECE), plays a key role protecting, promoting, and ensuring a competitive free market in Mexico. COFECE is responsible for eliminating barriers both to competition and free market entry across the economy (except for the telecommunications sector, which is governed by its own competition authority) and for identifying and regulating access to essential production inputs.
In addition to COFECE, the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) and National Hydrocarbon Commission (CNH) are both technically-oriented independent agencies that play important roles in regulating the energy and hydrocarbons sectors. CRE regulates national electricity generation, coverage, distribution, and commercialization, as well as the transportation, distribution, and storage of oil, gas, and biofuels. CNH supervises and regulates oil and gas exploration and production and issues oil and gas upstream (exploration/production) concessions.
Investors are increasingly concerned the administration is undermining confidence in the “rules of the game,” particularly in the energy sector, by weakening the political autonomy of COFECE, CNH, and CRE. The administration appointed four of seven CRE commissioners over the Senate’s objections, which voted twice to reject the nominees in part due to concerns their appointments would erode the CRE’s political autonomy. The administration’s budget cuts resulted in significant layoffs, which has reportedly hampered the agencies’ ability to carry out its work, a key factor in investment decisions.
The Secretariat of Public Administration has made considerable strides in improving transparency in government, including government contracting and involvement of the private sector in enhancing transparency and fighting corruption. The Mexican government has established four internet sites to increase transparency of government processes and to establish guidelines for the conduct of government officials: (1) Normateca ( ) provides information on government regulations; (2) Compranet ( ) displays federal government procurement actions on-line; (3) Tramitanet ( ) permits electronic processing of transactions within the bureaucracy; and (4) Declaranet ( ) allows federal employees to file income taxes online.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Since the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, Mexico has had an inquisitorial system adopted from Europe in which proceedings were largely carried out in writing and sealed from public view. Mexico amended its Constitution in 2008 to facilitate change to an oral accusatorial criminal justice system to better combat corruption, encourage transparency and efficiency, while ensuring respect for the fundamental rights of both the victim and the accused. An ensuing National Code of Criminal Procedure passed in 2014, and is applicable to all 32 states. The national procedural code is coupled with each state’s criminal code to provide the legal framework for the new accusatorial system, which allows for oral, public trials with the right of the defendant to face his/her accuser and challenge evidence presented against him/her, right to counsel, due process and other guarantees. Mexico fully adopted the new accusatorial criminal justice system at the state and federal levels in June 2016.
Mexico’s Commercial Code, which dates back to 1889, was most recently updated in 2014. All commercial activities must abide by this code and other applicable mercantile laws, including commercial contracts and commercial dispute settlement measures. Mexico has multiple specialized courts regarding fiscal, labor, economic competition, broadcasting, telecommunications, and agrarian law.
The judicial branch is nominally independent from the executive. Following a reform passed in February 2014, the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduria General de la Republica or PGR) became autonomous of the executive branch, as the Prosecutor General’s Office (Fiscalia General de la Republica or FGR). The Mexican Senate confirmed Mexico’s first Fiscal on January 18, 2019. The Fiscal will serve a nine-year term, intended to insulate his office from the executive branch, whose members serve six-year terms.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
Mexico’s Foreign Investment Law sets the rules governing foreign investment into the country. The National Commission for Foreign Investments, formed by several cabinet-level ministries including Interior (SEGOB), Foreign Relations (SRE), Finance (Hacienda), Economy (SE), and Social Development (SEDESOL), establishes the criteria for administering investment rules.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
Mexico has two constitutionally autonomous regulators to govern matters of competition – the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) and the Federal Commission for Economic Competition (COFECE). IFT governs broadcasting and telecommunications, while COFECE regulates all other sectors. For more information on competition issues in Mexico, please visit COFECE’s bilingual website at: .
Expropriation and Compensation
Mexico may not expropriate property under NAFTA, except for public purpose and on a non-discriminatory basis. Expropriations are governed by international law and require rapid fair market value compensation, including accrued interest. Investors have the right to international arbitration for violations of this or any other rights included in the investment chapter of NAFTA.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Mexico ratified the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention) in 1971 and has codified this into domestic law. Mexico is also a signatory to the Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration (1975 Panama Convention) and the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States. Mexico is not a member of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of other States (ICSID Convention), even though many of the investment agreements signed by Mexico include ICSID arbitration as a dispute settlement option.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Chapters 11, 19, and 20 of the existing NAFTA cover international dispute resolution. Chapter 11 allows a NAFTA Party investor to seek monetary damages for violations of its provisions. Investors may initiate arbitration against the NAFTA Party under the rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL Model Law) or through the ICSID Convention. A NAFTA investor may also choose to use the domestic court system to litigate their case. The USMCA contains revisions to these chapters, but will not enter into force until all three countries have ratified the agreement.
Since NAFTA’s inception, there have been 17 cases filed against Mexico by U.S. and Canadian investors who allege expropriation and/or other violations of Mexico’s NAFTA obligations. Details of the cases can be found at: https://www.state.gov/s/l/c3742.htm.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
The Arbitration Center of Mexico (CAM) is a specialized, private institution administering commercial arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. The average duration of an arbitration process conducted by CAM is 14 months. The Commercial Code dictates an arbitral award, regardless of the country where it originated, must be recognized as binding. The award must be enforced after a formal written petition is presented to a judge.
The internal laws of both Pemex and CFE state all national disputes of any nature will have to be resolved by federal courts. State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) and their productive subsidiaries may opt for alternative dispute settlement mechanisms under applicable commercial legislation and international treaties of which Mexico is a signatory. When contracts are executed in a foreign country, Pemex and CFE have the option to follow procedures governed by non-Mexican law, to use foreign courts, or to participate in arbitration.
Mexico’s Reorganization and Bankruptcy Law (Ley de Concursos Mercantiles) governs bankruptcy and insolvency. Congress approved modifications in 2014 in order to shorten procedural filing times and convey greater juridical certainty to all parties, including creditors. Declaring bankruptcy is legal in Mexico and it may be granted to a private citizen, a business, or an individual business partner. Debtors, creditors, or the Attorney General can file a bankruptcy claim. Mexico ranked 32 out of 190 countries for resolving insolvency in the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report. The average bankruptcy filing takes 1.8 years to be resolved and recovers 64.7 cents per USD, which compares favorably to average recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean of just 30.9 cents per USD. “Buró de Crédito” is Mexico’s main credit bureau. More information on credit reports and ratings can be found at: .
4. Industrial Policies
Land grants or discounts, tax deductions, and technology, innovation, and workforce development funding are commonly used incentives. Additional federal foreign trade incentives include: (1) IMMEX: a promotion which allows manufacturing sector companies to temporarily import inputs without paying general import tax and value added tax; (2) Import tax rebates on goods incorporated into products destined for export; and (3) Sectoral promotion programs allowing for preferential ad-valorem tariffs on imports of selected inputs. Industries typically receiving sectoral promotion benefits are footwear, mining, chemicals, steel, textiles, apparel, and electronics.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The new administration launched a two-year program in January 2019 that established a border economic zone (BEZ) in 43 municipalities in six northern border states within 15.5 miles from the U.S. border. The BEZ program entails: 1) a fiscal stimulus decree reducing the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 16 percent to 8 percent and the Income Tax (ISR) from 30 percent to 20 percent, 2) a minimum wage increase to MXN 176.72 (USD 8.75) per day, and 3) the gradual harmonization of gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and electricity rates with neighboring U.S. states. The purpose of the BEZ program is to boost investment, promote productivity, and create more jobs in the region. Interested businesses or individuals must apply to the government’s “Beneficiary Registry” by March 31 demonstrating income from border business activities comprise at least 90 percent of total income. The company headquarters or branch must be located in the border region for at least 18 months prior to the application. Sectors excluded from the preferential ISR rate include financial institutions, the agricultural sector, and export manufacturing companies (maquilas).
Separately, the administration announced plans to review and possibly end the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) program throughout the country.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
Mexican labor law requires at least 90 percent of a company’s employees be Mexican nationals. Employers can hire foreign workers in specialized positions as long as foreigners do not exceed 10 percent of all workers in that specialized category. Mexico does not follow a “forced localization” policy—foreign investors are not required by law to use domestic content in goods or technology. However, investors intending to produce goods in Mexico for export to the United States should take note of the rules of origin prescriptions contained within NAFTA if they wish to benefit from NAFTA treatment.
Mexico does not have any policy of forced localization for data storage, nor must foreign information technology (IT) providers turn over source code or provide backdoors into hardware or software. Within the constraints of the Federal Law on the Protection of Personal Data, Mexico does not impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Mexico ranked 103 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property in the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report, falling four places from its 2018 report. Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution guarantees the inviolable right to private property. Expropriation can only occur for public use and with due compensation. Mexico has four categories of land tenure: private ownership, communal tenure (ejido), publicly owned, and ineligible for sale or transfer.
Mexico prohibits foreigners from acquiring title to residential real estate in so-called “restricted zones” within 50 kilometers (approximately 30 miles) of the nation’s coast and 100 kilometers (approximately 60 miles) of the borders. “Restricted zones” cover roughly 40 percent of Mexico’s territory. Foreigners may acquire the effective use of residential property in “restricted zones” through the establishment of an extendable trust (fideicomiso) arranged through a Mexican financial institution. Under this trust, the foreign investor obtains all property use rights, including the right to develop, sell, and transfer the property. Real estate investors should be careful in performing due diligence to ensure that there are no other claimants to the property being purchased. In some cases, fideicomiso arrangements have led to legal challenges. U.S.-issued title insurance is available in Mexico and U.S. title insurers operate here.
Additionally, U.S. lending institutions have begun issuing mortgages to U.S. citizens purchasing real estate in Mexico. The Public Register for Business and Property (Registro Publico de la Propiedad y de Comercio) maintains publicly available information online regarding land ownership, liens, mortgages, restrictions, etc.
Tenants and squatters are protected under Mexican law. Property owners who encounter problems with tenants or squatters are advised to seek professional legal advice, as the legal process of eviction is complex.
Mexico has a nascent but growing financial securitization market for real estate and infrastructure investments, which investors can access via the purchase/sale of Fideocomisos de Infraestructura y Bienes Raíces (FIBRAs) and Certificates of Capital Development (CKDs) listed on Mexico’s BMV stock exchange.
Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual Property Rights in Mexico are covered by the Industrial Property Law (Ley de la Propiedad Industrial) and the Federal Copyright Law (Ley Federal del Derecho de Autor). Responsibility for the protection of IPR is spread across several government authorities. The Office of the Attorney General (PGR) oversees a specialized unit that prosecutes IPR crimes. The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), the equivalent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, administers patent and trademark registrations, and handles administrative enforcement cases of IPR infringement. The National Institute of Copyright (INDAUTOR) handles copyright registrations and mediates certain types of copyright disputes, while the Federal Commission for the Prevention from Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) regulates pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and processed foods. The Mexican Customs Service’s mandate includes ensuring illegal goods do not cross Mexico’s borders.
The process for trademark registration in Mexico normally takes six to eight months. The registration process begins by filing an application with IMPI, which is published in the Official Gazette. IMPI first undertakes a formalities examination, followed by a substantive examination to determine if the application and supporting documentation fulfills the requirements established by law and regulation to grant the trademark registration. Once the determination is made, IMPI then publishes the registration in the Official Gazette. A trademark registration in Mexico is valid for 10 years from the filing date, and is renewable for 10-year periods. Any party can challenge a trademark registration through the new opposition system, or post-grant through a cancellation proceeding. IMPI employs the following administrative procedures: nullity, expiration, opposition, cancellation, trademark, patent and copyright (trade-based) infringement. Once IMPI issues a decision, the affected party may challenge it through an internal reconsideration process or go directly to the Specialized IP Court for a nullity trial. An aggrieved party can then file an appeal with a Federal Appeal Court based on the Specialized IP Court’s decision. In cases with an identifiable constitutional challenge, the plaintiff may file an appeal before the Supreme Court of Justice.
The USPTO has a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) agreement with IMPI. Under the PPH, an applicant receiving a ruling from either IMPI or the USPTO that at least one claim in an application is patentable may request that the other office expedite examination of the corresponding application. The PPH leverages fast-track patent examination procedures already available in both offices to allow applicants in both countries to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently. The PPH permits USPTO and IMPI to benefit from work previously done by the other office, which reduces the examination workload and improves patent quality.
Mexico is plagued by widespread commercial-scale infringement that results in significant losses to Mexican, U.S., and other IPR owners. There are many issues that have made it difficult to improve IPR enforcement in Mexico, including legislative loopholes; lack of coordination between federal, state, and municipal authorities; a cumbersome and lengthy judicial process; and widespread cultural acceptance of piracy and counterfeiting. In addition, the involvement of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), which control the piracy and counterfeiting markets in parts of Mexico, continue to impede federal government efforts to improve IPR enforcement. TCO involvement has further illustrated the link between IPR crimes and illicit trafficking of other contraband, including arms and drugs.
Mexico remained on the Watch List in the 2019 Special 301 report. Obstacles to U.S. trade include the wide availability of pirated and counterfeit goods in both physical and virtual notorious markets. The 2018 USTR Out-Of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets listed two Mexican markets: Tepito in Mexico City and San Juan de Dios in Guadalajara.
Mexico is a signatory to numerous international IP treaties, including the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
Resources for Rights Holders
- Intellectual Property Rights Attaché for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean
U.S. Trade Center
Liverpool No. 31 Col. Juárez
C.P. 06600 Mexico City
Tel: (52) 55 5080 2189
- National Institute of Copyright (INDAUTOR)
- Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI)
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The Mexican government is generally open to foreign portfolio investments, and foreign investors trade actively in various public and private asset classes. Foreign entities may freely invest in federal government securities. The Foreign Investment Law establishes foreign investors may hold 100 percent of the capital stock of any Mexican corporation or partnership, except in those few areas expressly subject to limitations under that law. Foreign investors may also purchase non-voting shares through mutual funds, trusts, offshore funds, and American Depositary Receipts. They also have the right to buy directly limited or nonvoting shares as well as free subscription shares, or “B” shares, which carry voting rights. Foreigners may purchase an interest in “A” shares, which are normally reserved for Mexican citizens, through a neutral fund operated by one of Mexico’s six development banks. Finally, Mexico offers federal, state, and local governments bonds that are rated by international credit rating agencies. The market for these securities has expanded rapidly in past years and foreign investors hold a significant stake of total federal issuances. However, foreigners are limited in their ability to purchase sub-sovereign state and municipal debt. Liquidity across asset classes is relatively deep.
Mexico established a fiscally transparent trust structure known as a FICAP in 2006 to allow venture and private equity funds to incorporate locally. The Securities Market Law (Ley de Mercado de Valores) established the creation of three special investment vehicles which can provide more corporate and economic rights to shareholders than a normal corporation. These categories are: (1) Investment Promotion Corporation (Sociedad Anonima de Promotora de Inversion or SAPI); (2) Stock Exchange Investment Promotion Corporation (Sociedad Anonima Promotora de Inversion Bursatil or SAPIB); and (3) Stock Exchange Corporation (Sociedad Anonima Bursatil or SAB). Mexico also has a growing real estate investment trust market, locally referred to as Fideicomisos de Infraestructura y Bienes Raíces (FIBRAS) as well as FIBRAS-E, which allow for investment in non-real estate investment projects. FIBRAS are regulated under Articles 187 and 188 of Mexican Federal Income Tax Law.
Money and Banking System
Financial sector reforms signed into law in 2014 have improved regulation and supervision of financial intermediaries and have fostered greater competition between financial services providers. While access to financial services – particularly personal credit for formal sector workers – has expanded in the past four years, bank and credit penetration in Mexico remains low compared to OECD and emerging market peers. Coupled with sound macroeconomic fundamentals, reforms have created a positive environment for the financial sector and capital markets. According to the National Banking Commission (CNBV), the banking system remains healthy and well capitalized. Non-performing loans have fallen sixty percent since 2001 and now account for 2.1 percent of all loans.
Mexico’s banking sector is heavily concentrated and majority foreign-owned: the seven largest banks control 85 percent of system assets and foreign-owned institutions control 70 percent of total assets. Under NAFTA’s national treatment guarantee, U.S. securities firms and investment funds, acting through local subsidiaries, have the right to engage in the full range of activities permitted in Mexico.
Banco de Mexico (Banxico), Mexico’s central bank, maintains independence in operations and management by constitutional mandate. Its main function is to provide domestic currency to the Mexican economy and to safeguard the Mexican Peso’s purchasing power by gearing monetary policy toward meeting a 3 percent inflation target over the medium term.
Mexico’s Financial Technology (FinTech) law came into effect in March 2018, creating a broad rubric for the development and regulation of innovative financial technologies. Although investors await important secondary regulations that will fully define the rules of the game for FinTech firms, the law covers both cryptocurrencies and a regulatory “sandbox” for start-ups to test the viability of products, placing Mexico among the FinTech policy vanguard.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
The Government of Mexico maintains a free-floating exchange rate.
Mexico maintains open conversion and transfer policies. In general, capital and investment transactions, remittance of profits, dividends, royalties, technical service fees, and travel expenses are handled at market-determined exchange rates. Mexican Peso (MXN)/USD exchange is available on same day, 24- and 48-hour settlement bases. In order to prevent money-laundering transactions, Mexico imposes limits on USD cash deposits. Border- and tourist-area businesses may deposit more than USD 14,000 per month subject to reporting rules and providing justification for their need to conduct USD cash transactions. Individuals are subject to a USD 4,000 per month USD cash deposit limit. In 2016, Banxico launched a central clearing house to allow for USD clearing services wholly within Mexico, which should improve clearing services significantly for domestic companies with USD income.
There have been no recent changes in Mexico’s remittance policies. Mexico continues to maintain open conversion and transfer policies.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
The Mexican Petroleum Fund for Stability and Development (FMP) was created as part of 2013 budgetary reforms. Housed in Banxico, the fund distributes oil revenues to the national budget and a long-term savings account. The FMP incorporates the Santiago Principles for transparency, placing it among the most transparent Sovereign Wealth Funds in the world. Both Banxico and Mexico’s Supreme Federal Auditor regularly audit the fund. Mexico is also a member of the International Working Group of Sovereign Wealth Funds. The Fund is expected to receive MXN 520.6 billion (approximately USD 26 billion) in income in 2019. The FMP is required to publish quarterly and annual reports, which can be found at .
7. State-Owned Enterprises
There are two main SOEs in Mexico, both of them in the energy sector. Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) is in charge of running 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 eight percent. The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) is the other main state-owned company and is in charge of the electricity sector. While the Mexican government maintains state ownership, the latest constitutional reforms granted Pemex and CFE management and budget autonomy and greater flexibility to engage in private contracting.
As a result of Mexico’s historic 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 Statoil. Pemex’s nine-person Board of Directors contains five government ministers and four 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.
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 has 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 will remain the sole provider of distribution services and will own all distribution assets. The 2014 energy reform separated CFE from the National Energy Control Center (CENACE), which now controls the national wholesale electricity market and ensures non-discriminatory access to the grid for competitors. Independent power generators were authorized to operate in 1992, but were required to sell their output to CFE or use it to self-supply. Under the reform, private power generators may now install and manage interconnections with CFE’s existing state-owned distribution infrastructure. The reform also requires 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 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. It has publicly called for private investors to “voluntarily renegotiate” gas supply contracts with CFE, which has raised significant concerns among investors about contract sanctity.
The main non-market-based advantage 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.
Mexico’s 2014 energy reforms liberalized access to these sectors but did not privatize state owned enterprises.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Mexico’s private and public sectors have worked to promote and develop corporate social responsibility (CSR) during the past decade. CSR in Mexico began as a philanthropic effort. It has evolved gradually to a more holistic approach, trying to match international standards such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the United Nations Global Compact.
Responsible business conduct reporting has made progress in the last few years with more companies developing a corporate responsibility strategy. The government has also made an effort to implement CSR in state owned companies such as Pemex, which has published corporate responsibility reports since 1999. Recognizing the importance of CSR issues, the Mexican Stock Exchange (Bolsa Mexicana de Valores) launched a sustainable companies index, which allows investors to specifically invest in those companies deemed to meet internationally accepted criteria for good corporate governance.
In October 2017, Mexico became the 53rd member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which represents an important milestone in its effort to establish transparency and public trust in its energy sector.
Corruption exists in many forms in Mexican government and society, including corruption in the public sector (e.g., demand for bribes or kickbacks by government officials) and private sector (e.g., fraud, falsifying claims, etc.), as well as conflict of interest issues, which are not well defined in the Mexican legal framework. A key pillar of President Lopez Obrador’s presidential campaign was combatting corruption at all levels of government.
Still, a significant concern is the complicity of government and law enforcement officials with criminal elements. While public and private sector corruption is found in many countries, the collaboration of government actors (often due to intimidation and threats) with criminal organizations poses serious challenges for the rule of law in Mexico. Some of the most common reports of official corruption involve government officials stealing from public coffers or demanding bribes in exchange for awarding public contracts. The current administration supported anti-corruption reforms (detailed below) and judicial proceedings in several high-profile corruption cases, including former governors. However, Mexican civil society assert that the government must take more effective and frequent action to address corruption.
As described in Section 4, Mexico adopted a constitutional reform in 2014 to transform the current Office of the Attorney General into an Independent Prosecutor General’s office in order to shore up its independence. President Lopez Obrador’s choice for Prosecutor General was confirmed by the Mexican Senate January 18, 2019. In 2015, Mexico passed a constitutional reform creating the National Anti-Corruption System (SNA) with an anti-corruption prosecutor and a citizens’ participation committee to oversee efforts. The system is designed to provide a comprehensive framework for the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of corruption cases, including delineating acts of corruption considered criminal acts under the law. The legal framework establishes a basis for holding private actors and private firms legally liable for acts of corruption involving public officials and encourages private firms to develop internal codes of conduct. Implementation of the mandatory state-level anti-corruption legislation varies. .
The new laws mandate a redesign of the Secretariat of Public Administration to give it additional auditing and investigative functions and capacities in combatting public sector corruption. The Mexican Congress approved legislation to change economic institutions, assigning new responsibilities and in some instances creating new entities. Reforms to the federal government’s structure included the creation of a General Coordination of Development Programs to manage the newly created federal state coordinators (“superdelegates”) in charge of federal programs in each state. The law also created the Secretariat of Public Security and Citizen Protection, and significantly expanded the power of the president’s Legal Advisory Office (Consejería Jurídica) to name and remove each federal agency’s legal advisor and clear all executive branch legal reforms before their submission to Congress. The law eliminated financial units from ministries, with the exception of the Secretariat of Finance (SHCP), the army (SEDENA), and the navy (SEMAR), and transferred control of contracting offices in other ministries to the SHCP. Separately, the law replaced the previous Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL) with a Welfare Secretariat in charge of coordinating social policies, including those developed by other agencies such as health, education, and culture. The Labor Secretariat gained additional tools to foster collective bargaining, union democracy, and to meet International Labor Organization (ILO) obligations.
Four opposition parties filed a legal challenge with the Supreme Court, which agreed January 18 to hear constitutional challenges to the law. The legal challenge contends the reforms infringe on state powers and violate the balance of powers stipulated in the constitution.
Mexico ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery and passed its implementing legislation in May 1999. The legislation includes provisions making it a criminal offense to bribe foreign officials. Mexico is also a party to the Organization of American States (OAS) Convention against Corruption and has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption. The government has enacted or proposed strict laws attacking corruption and bribery, with average penalties of five to 10 years in prison.
Mexico is a member of the Open Government Partnership and enacted a Transparency and Access to Public Information Act in 2015, which revised the existing legal framework to expand national access to information. Transparency in public administration at the federal level has noticeably improved, but access to information at the state and local level has been slow. According to Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perception Index, Mexico ranked 138 of 180 nations, and has fallen every year since 2012. Civil society organizations focused on fighting corruption are increasingly influential at the federal level, but are few in number and less powerful at the state and local levels.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report for 2016-2017 found corruption is “the most problematic factor for doing business” in Mexico. For example, the WEF notes bribes to facilitate procurement of necessary permits or government contracts can increase business costs by 10 percent. Business representatives, including from U.S. firms believe public funds are often diverted to private companies and individuals due to corruption and perceive favoritism to be widespread among government procurement officials. The GAN Business Anti-Corruption Portal states compliance with procurement regulations by state bodies in Mexico is unreliable and that corruption is extensive, despite laws covering conflicts of interest, competitive bidding, and company blacklisting procedures.
The U.S. Embassy has engaged in a broad-based effort to work with Mexican agencies and civil society organizations in developing mechanisms to fight corruption and increase transparency and fair play in government procurement. Efforts with specific business impact include government procurement best practices training and technical assistance under the U.S. Trade and Development Agency’s Global Procurement Initiative. In addition, USAID is working with SFP and Transparency International to drive adoption of the internationally accepted Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS), as well as technical assistance to upgrade the Mexican government procurement system, CompraNet, to be based on OCDS and international best practices. (CompraNet is also described in the regulatory transparency portion of Section 3, above.)
UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery
Mexico ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2004. It ratified the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 1999.
Resources to Report Corruption
Contact at government agency:
Secretariat of Public Administration
Miguel Laurent 235, Mexico City
Contact at “watchdog” organization:
Dulce Olivia 73, Mexico City
10. Political and Security Environment
Mass demonstrations are common in the larger metropolitan areas and in the southern Mexican states of Guerrero and Oaxaca. While political violence is rare, drug and organized crime-related violence has increased significantly in recent years.
The USD 2.7 billion Merida Initiative, launched by Presidents Calderon and Bush in 2008 and supported by bipartisan leaders in Congress, remains our primary mechanism to support Mexico in addressing significant security challenges at an institutional level. Merida Initiative programs aim to strengthen Mexico’s security and judicial institutions by applying international standards of certification and accreditation to personnel and institutions across the criminal justice system, from the accreditation of police academies and corrections facilities to advanced training for judges, prosecutors, criminal analysts, and forensic lab technicians. In addition, Merida Initiative programs have expanded over the past year in the areas of border security and counternarcotics, in line with new priorities set out by the Trump administration.
Companies have reported general security concerns remain an issue for companies looking to invest in the country. The American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico estimates in a biannual report that security costs business as much as 5 percent of operating budgets. Many companies choose to take extra precautions for the protection of their executives. They also report increasing security costs for shipments of goods. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) monitors and reports on regional security for U.S. businesses operating overseas. OSAC constituency is available to any U.S.-owned, not-for-profit organization, or any enterprise incorporated in the United States (parent company, not subsidiaries or divisions) doing business overseas ( ).
The Department of State maintains a Travel Advisory for U.S. citizens traveling and living in Mexico, available at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/mexico-travel-advisory.html
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Mexico’s 57.4 percent rate of informality remains higher than countries with similar GDP per capita levels. High informality, defined as those working in unregistered firms or without social security protection, distorts labor market dynamics, contributes to persistent wage depression, drags overall productivity, and slows economic growth. Mexico’s efforts to increase formality over the past four years reduced the rate by 2.4 percentage points, a modest decrease given the scope of the problem. In the formal economy, there is a general surplus of labor but a shortage of technically skilled workers and engineers. Manufacturing companies, particularly along the U.S.-Mexico border and in the states of Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Querétaro, report labor shortages and an inability to retain staff.
Mexico’s labor relations system has been widely criticized as skewed to represent the interests of employers and the government at the expense of workers. Mexico’s legal framework governing collective bargaining created the possibility of negotiation and registration of initial collective bargaining agreements without the support or knowledge of the covered workers. These agreements are commonly known as protection contracts and constitute a gap in practice with international labor standards regarding freedom of association. The percentage of the economy covered by collective bargaining agreements is between five and 10 percent.
The first element of a labor justice reform package was passed into law February 24, 2017, replacing biased tripartite dispute resolution entities (Conciliation and Arbitration Boards) with independent judicial bodies. In terms of labor dispute resolution mechanisms, the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards (CABs) previously adjudicated all individual and collective labor conflicts. The constitutional labor reform requires complementary revisions to the existing labor law. The lower house of the Mexican Congress approved a bill with the requisite revisions in April 2019. Full congressional approval is expected once the Senate has also considered the bill.
Labor experts predict approval and implementation of the labor reform legislation, as required under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), will likely result in a greater level of labor actionas well as inter-union and intra-union competition. Employer association and organized labor representatives agree, but differ on how much and how quickly labor actions will spread. The increasingly friendly political and legal environment for independent unions is already changing the way established unions manage disputes with employers, prompting more authentic collective bargaining. As independent unions compete with corporatist unions to represent worker interests, workers are likely to be further emboldened in demanding higher wages.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), government enforcement was reasonably effective in enforcing labor laws in large and medium-sized companies, especially in factories run by U.S. companies and in other industries under federal jurisdiction. Enforcement was inadequate in many small companies and in the agriculture and construction sectors, and it was nearly absent in the informal sector. Workers organizations have made numerous complaints of poor working conditions in maquiladoras and in the agricultural production industry. Low wages, poor labor conditions, long work hours, unjustified dismissals, lack of social security benefits and safety in the workplace, and lack of freedom of association were among the most common complaints.
12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
Mexico and Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) finalized in 2004 the agreement enabling OPIC programs and services within the country. Since then, OPIC has provided over USD 1 billion in financing and political risk insurance to support to more than 22 projects in Mexico. OPIC has announced a drive to catalyze an additional USD 1 billion in investments in Mexico and Central America by 2021. In December 2018 OPIC announced the possibility of expanding its funding opportunities in Mexico to upwards of USD 5 billion. For more information on OPIC’s projects in Mexico, please consult OPIC’s website at .
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
The data included in the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey is consistent with Mexican government data.
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data, 2017|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||$490,574||100%||Total Outward||$172,919||100%|
|United States||$215,899||44%||United States||$73,199||42%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
The data included in the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) is consistent with Mexican government data.
|Portfolio Investment Assets, June 2018|
|Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)|
|Total||Equity Securities||Total Debt Securities|
|All Countries||$62,148||100%||All Countries||$39,738||100%||All Countries||$22,410||100%|
|United States||$28,487||45.8%||Not specified||$21,340||54%||United States||$17,441||78%|
|Not specified||$24,204||39%||United States||$11,046||28%||Not specified||$2,864||13%|
14. Contact for More Information
Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtémoc, Mexico, D.F. 06500
+52 55 5080 2000