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.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Mexico is open to foreign direct investment (FDI) in most economic sectors and has consistently been one of the largest emerging market recipients of FDI. Mexico’s proximity to the United States and preferential access to the U.S. market, macroeconomic stability, large domestic market, growing consumer base, increasingly skilled workers, and lower labor costs combine to attract foreign investors. The COVID-19 economic crisis showed how linked North American supply chains are and highlighted new opportunities for partnership and investment. Still, recent policy and regulatory changes have created doubts about the investment climate, particularly in the energy, agriculture, and the formal employment pensions management sectors.
The United States has been the largest source of FDI in Mexico, with 34 percent of the stock as of 2020 (IMF). According to Mexico’s Secretariat of Economy, total FDI flows for 2021 were USD 31.6 billion, a 13.2 percent increase compared to 2020 (USD 27.9 billion). The automotive, aerospace, telecommunications, financial services, and electronics sectors typically receive large amounts of FDI.
Most foreign investment is concentrated in 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 the administration is focused on attracting investment to the region, including through large infrastructure projects such as the Maya Train, the Dos Bocas refinery, and the trans-isthmus logistics and industrial corridor. In 2021, the GOM ramped up public spending and widely promoted private investment in these projects. In December 2021, President Lopez Obrador issued a controversial decree naming these projects “national security” priorities, allowing them to proceed before the completion of environmental and other impact studies. Though courts enjoined the executive decree, it still generated concerns about the Lopez Obrador administration’s commitment to transparency.
The 1993 Foreign Investment Law, last updated in March 2017, governs foreign investment in Mexico, including which business sectors are open to foreign investors and to what extent. It provides national treatment, eliminates performance requirements for most foreign investment projects, and liberalizes criteria for automatic approval of foreign investment. 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 GOM dissolved the former trade and investment promotion agency ProMexico in 2019, and Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE) assumed most of its responsibilities with the establishment of the General Directorate for Global Investment (GDGI) in June 2021. The GDGI launched three specific projects: the California Economic Council; an interactive data base to attract FDI called the “Atlas Prospectivo;” and the U.S.-Mexico Task Force for Transport Electrification. The GDGI works closely with Mexico’s state secretaries of economy to promote trade and attract FDI through partnerships with SRE’s diplomatic missions overseas.
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 over the past decade 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. Still, the Lopez Obrador administration has made significant regulatory and policy changes that favor Pemex and CFE over private participants. The changes have led private companies to file lawsuits in Mexican courts and seek compensation through international arbitration.
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 held nine auctions allowing private companies to bid on exploration and development rights to oil and gas resources in blocks around the country. Between 2015 and 2018, Mexico auctioned more than 100 land, shallow, and deep-water blocks with significant interest from international oil companies. The administration has since postponed further auctions but committed to respecting the existing contracts awarded under the previous administration. Still, foreign players were discouraged when the GOM awarded operatorship of a major shallow water oil discovery made by a U.S. company-led consortium to Pemex. The private consortium had invested more than USD 200 million in making the discovery and is seeking compensation through international arbitration.
Telecommunications: Mexican law states telecommunications and broadcasting activities are public services and the government will at all times maintain ownership of the radio spectrum. In January 2021, President Lopez Obrador proposed incorporating the independent Federal Telecommunication Institute (IFT) into the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT), to save government funds and avoid duplication. Non-governmental organizations and private sector companies said such a move would potentially violate the USMCA, which mandates signatories to maintain independent telecommunications regulators. As of March 2022, the proposal remains pending. Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Tatiana Clouthier underscored in public statements that President López Obrador is committed to respecting Mexico’s obligations under the USMCA, including maintaining an autonomous telecommunications regulator.
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.
The USMCA, which entered into force July 1, 2020, maintained several NAFTA provisions, granting U.S. and Canadian investors national and most-favored-nation treatment in setting up operations or acquiring firms in Mexico. Exceptions exist for investments restricted under the USMCA. Currently, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have the right to settle any legacy disputes or claims under NAFTA through international arbitration for a sunset period of three years following the end of NAFTA. Only the United States and Mexico are party to an international arbitration agreement under the USMCA, though access is restricted as the USMCA distinguishes between investors with covered government contracts and those without. Most U.S. companies investing in Mexico will have access to fewer remedies under the USMCA than under NAFTA, as they will have to meet certain criteria to qualify for arbitration. Sub-national Mexican governments must also accord national treatment to investors from USMCA 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 decide. 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
There has not been an update to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) trade policy review of Mexico since June 2017 covering the period to year-end 2016.
According to the World Bank, on average registering a foreign-owned company in Mexico requires 11 procedures and 31 days. Mexico ranked 60 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s most recent 2020 Doing Business report. 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 are supposed to be able to register a new company online in 24 hours. Still, it can take between 66 and 90 days to start a new business in Mexico, according to the World Bank. The GOM maintains a business registration website, www.tuempresa.gob.mx, and one for general information on opening a business, https://www.gob.mx/tuempresa?tab=Abre. The Secretariat of Economy offers a one-stop shop website “Invest in Mexico” aimed at facilitating the administrative procedures for foreign investors: www.economia.gob.mx/invest-in-mx/. Companies operating in Mexico must register with the tax authority (Servicio de Administracion 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.
Since October 2019, SAT has launched dozens of tax audits against major international and domestic corporations, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax assessments, penalties, and late fees. Multinational and Mexican firms have reported audits based on diverse aspects of the tax code, including adjustments on tax payments made, waivers received, and deductions reported during the Enrique Peña Nieto administration. Private sector stakeholders reported a continuation of SAT’s aggressive tax auditing practices in 2021.
Various offices at the Secretariat of Economy and the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs handle promoting Mexican outward investment and assistance to Mexican firms acquiring or establishing joint ventures with foreign firms. Mexico does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.
2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties
Bilateral Investment Treaties
The USMCA entered into force on July 1, 2020, containing 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 31 Bilateral Investment Treaties in force: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investment-agreements/countries/136/mexico. Mexico and the European Union finalized a FTA in May 2020, but it still must undergo legal scrub and translation. Mexico and the United Kingdom (UK) also signed an agreement to continue trading under existing terms following the UK’s exit from the European Union in December 2020.
Bilateral Taxation Treaties
Mexico is a member of the OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting and a party to the Inclusive Framework’s October 2021 Two-Pillar Solution to Address the Tax Challenges Arising from the Digitalization of the Economy.
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.
In 2019, the GOM approved a value-added tax (VAT) on digital services. Since June 30, 2020, foreign digital companies are required to register with SAT and to collect VAT on the majority of goods and services customers purchase online and remit the VAT and sales reports to SAT. SAT is authorized to block a foreign digital company’s internet protocol (IP) address in Mexico for non-compliance with tax requirements until the company complies. The administration also introduced a series of fiscal measures in 2019 to combat tax evasion and fraud.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
The National Commission on Regulatory Improvement (CONAMER), 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 and engage in notice and comment rule making, which CONAMER carries out. Impact assessments are made available for public comment via CONAMER’s website: https://www.gob.mx/conamer. The official gazette of state and federal laws currently in force in Mexico is publicly available via: http://www.ordenjuridico.gob.mx/. Mexican law provides for a 20-day public consultation period for most proposed regulations. Any interested stakeholder can comment on draft regulations and the supporting justification, including regulatory impact assessments. Certain measures are not subject to a mandatory public consultation period. These include measures concerning taxation, responsibilities of public servants, the public prosecutor’s office executing its constitutional functions, and the Secretariats of National Defense (SEDENA) and the Navy (SEMAR). In 2021, there was a rise in rule making with waiver of full notice and public comment processes as President Lopez Obrador rushed regulations through “in the national interest.”
Given SAT’s mandate to collect taxes and revenue from international trade, many of its regulations circumvent the notice and public comment process. In 2021, SAT proposed a new requirement for a “digital waybill complement” or “complemento de carta porte” for nearly all goods shipments within Mexican territory effective January 1, 2022. Mexican and U.S. private sector representatives called the digital document “onerous” as it requires 180 data points for shipments across all modalities—rail, truck, air, and maritime shipping—many of which are unknown at the onset of a shipment. Despite the domestic nature of the new requirement, U.S. companies raised concerns about the “carta porte” as a technical barrier to trade given the potential delays it could cause for shipments to and from ports of entry. The U.S. government has pushed for better SAT coordination with the private sector to address compliance challenges with the new requirement. This advocacy led to the postponement of “carta porte’s” entry into force to October 1, 2022 and public-private working groups to discuss implementation in the interim.
The National Quality Infrastructure Program (PNIC) is the official document used to plan, inform, and coordinate standardization activities, both public and private. The PNIC is published annually by the Secretariat of Economy in Mexico’s Official Gazette. The PNIC describes Mexico’s plans for new voluntary standards (Normas Mexicanas; NMXs) and mandatory technical regulations (Normas Oficiales Mexicanas; NOMs) as well as proposed changes to existing standards and technical regulations. Interested stakeholders can request the creation, modification, or cancelation of NMXs and NOMs as well as participate in the working groups that develop and modify these standards and technical regulations. Mexico’s antitrust agency, the Federal Commission for Economic Competition (COFECE), plays a key role in protecting, promoting, and ensuring a competitive free market in Mexico as well as protecting consumers. 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 September 2021, COFECE Commissioner President Alejandra Palacios stepped down following several months of public disagreements with President Lopez Obrador’s statist energy policy. Lopez Obrador has not named substitutions for COFECE’s Commissioners since November 2020, leaving the institution without a quorum for resolutions related to barriers to competition or the issuance of regulatory provisions.
In addition to COFECE, the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) and National Hydrocarbon Commission (CNH) are both technical-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. In addition, the National Center for Energy Control (CENACE) is the independent electricity grid operator. Energy experts assert that these agencies, particularly CRE, are no longer fully independent as they have favored Pemex and CFE with regulations and permits over private participants.
Mexico has seen a shift in the public procurement process since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Government entities are increasingly awarding contracts either as direct awards or by invitation-only procurements. In addition, there have been recent tenders that favor European standards over North American standards.
International Regulatory Considerations
Generally speaking, the Mexican government has established legal, regulatory, and accounting systems that are transparent and consistent with international norms. Still, Mexico’s current executive administration has eroded the autonomy and publicly questioned the value of specific antitrust and energy regulators and has proposed dissolving some of them to cut costs. Furthermore, corruption continues to affect equal enforcement of some regulations. The administration rolled out an ambitious plan to centralize government procurement in an effort to root out corruption and generate efficiencies. The administration estimated it could save up to USD 25 billion annually by consolidating government purchases in the Secretariat of Finance. Still, the expedited rollout and lack of planning for supply chain contingencies led to several sole-source purchases. 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.
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, CENACE, and CRE. Still, COFECE has successfully challenged regulatory changes in the electricity sector that favor state-owned enterprises over private companies. The administration has appointed five 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 autonomy. The administration’s budget cuts resulted in significant government layoffs, which has reportedly hampered agencies’ ability to carry out their work, a key factor in investment decisions. The independence of the CRE and CNH was further undermined by a memo from the government to both bodies instructing them to use their regulatory powers to favor state-owned Pemex and CFE. Investors expressed concern over the current executive administration setting a fee ceiling for AFORES, or private pensions management firms, starting in 2022 using a fast-tracked regulatory process with little industry consultation.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Beginning with the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, Mexico had an inquisitorial criminal justice 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, and ensure 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 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 and Prosecutor General’s office (FGR) are constitutionally independent from each other and the executive. The Prosecutor General is nominated by the president and approved by a two-thirds majority in the Senate for a nine-year term, effectively de-coupling the Prosecutor General from the political cycle of elections every six years. With the historic 2019 labor reform, Mexico also created an independent labor court system run by the judicial branch (formerly this was an executive branch function). The labor courts are being brought online in a phased process by state with the final phase completed on May 1, 2022.
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), and Economy (SE) establishes the criteria for administering investment rules.
Competition and Antitrust 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: www.cofece.mx. As mentioned above, Lopez Obrador has publicly questioned the value of COFECE and his party unsuccessfully introduced a proposal last year which would have dramatically reduced its resources and merged COFECE and other regulators into a less-independent structure. COFECE currently has the minimum quorum required of at least four commissioners in order to operate, out of a seven-members full board. However, COFECE lacks the required quorum of five commissioners in order to issue final resolutions determining competition barriers as well as anti-competitive practices. President Lopez Obrador has not appointed the remaining commissioners as required by law.
Expropriation and Compensation
USMCA (and NAFTA) contain clauses stating Mexico may neither directly nor indirectly expropriate property, 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. The USMCA contains an annex regarding U.S.-Mexico investment disputes and those related to covered government contracts.
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 signed in 2018 the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of other States (ICSID Convention) and codified it into law the same year.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The USMCA covers investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) between the United States and Mexico in chapter 31. Canada is not party to USMCA ISDS provisions as access to dispute resolution will be possible under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (the “CPTPP”). Foreign investors who are “part[ies] to a covered government contract” and belong to five “covered sectors”: (i) oil and gas; (ii) power generation; (iii) telecommunications; (iv) transportation; and (v) infrastructure will have access to ISDS per USMCA provisions but only after first defending their claims in local courts before initiating arbitration. A less favorable regime will apply to all other foreign investors under the USMCA, who can only access the USMCA’s ISDS system to enforce a limited number of claims and must first defend their claims in local courts before initiating arbitration. Investors will be able to file new NAFTA claims before July 1, 2023, provided that the dispute arises out of investments made when NAFTA was still in force and remained “in existence” on July 1, 2020.
Since NAFTA’s inception, there have been 13 cases filed against Mexico by U.S. and Canadian investors who allege expropriation and/or other violations of Mexico’s NAFTA obligations. For more details on the cases, visit: https://icsid.worldbank.org/en/Pages/cases/searchcases.aspx
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 a CAM-conducted arbitration process conducted 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 presenting a formal written petition 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 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 33 out of 190 countries for resolving insolvency in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report (that last it produced). The average bankruptcy filing takes 1.8 years to be resolved and recovers 63.9 cents per USD, which compares favorably to average recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean of just 31.2 cents per USD. The “Buró de Crédito” is Mexico’s main credit bureau. More information on credit reports and ratings can be found at: http://www.burodecredito.com.mx/.
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 (VAT); (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. Manufacturing and other companies report it is becoming increasingly difficult to request and receive reimbursements from SAT of the VAT paid on inputs for the export sector, with significant reimbursement delays and arrears reaching tens of millions USD for some companies.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The administration renewed until December 31, 2024 a program launched 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 was to boost investment, promote productivity, and create more jobs in the region. Sectors excluded from the preferential ISR rate include financial institutions, the agricultural sector, and export manufacturing companies (maquilas).
On December 30, 2020, President Lopez Obrador launched a similar program for 22 municipalities in Mexico’s southern states of Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas, reducing VAT from 16 to 8 percent and ISR from 30 to 20 percent and harmonizing excise taxes on fuel with neighboring states in Central America. Chetumal in Quintana Roo will also enjoy duty-free status. The benefits extend from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2024.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
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 USMCA if they wish to benefit from USMCA treatment. Chapter four of the USMCA introduced new rules of origin and labor content rules, which entered into force on July 1, 2020.
In 2020, the Central Bank of Mexico (or Banxico) and the National Banking and Securities Commissions (CNBV – Mexico’s principal bank regulator) drafted regulations mandating the largest financial technology companies operating in Mexico to either host data on a back-up server outside of the United States—if their primary is in the United States—or on physical servers in Mexico. As of March 2022, the draft regulations remain pending public comment. The financial services industry is concerned they could violate provisions of the USMCA financial services chapter prohibiting data localization.
Other Industrial Policy Aspects
Mexico’s government is increasingly choosing its military for the construction and management of economic infrastructure. In the past two years, the government entrusted the Army (SEDENA) with building the new airport in Mexico City, and sections 6, 7, and part of section 5 of the Maya Train railway project in Yucatan state. SEDENA created a state-owned company to operate and manage the newly completed Mexico City airport. SEDENA is also issuing contracts for the construction of over 300 social development bank branches throughout Mexico. The government announced plans to give to the Navy (SEMAR) the rights for construction, management, and operations of the Trans-Isthmic Train project to connect the ports of Coatzacoalcos in Veracruz state with the Salina Cruz port in Oaxaca state. The government is in the process of transferring administration of land and sea ports from the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT) to SEDENA and SEMAR respectively and has appointed retired military personnel to port administrator positions at most ports.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Mexico ranked 105 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report, falling two places from its 2019 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 Fideicomisos 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 (IPR) in Mexico are covered by the Mexican Federal Law for Protection of Industrial Property (Ley Federal de Protección a 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 Prosecutor General’s Office (Fiscalia General de la Republica or FGR) oversees a specialized unit that prosecutes intellectual property (IP) 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 National Customs Agency of Mexico (ANAM) is responsible for 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 IMPI’s Gazette for opposition by a third party. If no opposition is filed, IMPI 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 issues the registration. A trademark registration in Mexico is valid for 10 years from the date of registration and is renewable for 10-year periods. Any party with standing can challenge a trademark registration through a cancellation proceeding. IMPI employs the following administrative procedures: nullity, expiration or lapsing, opposition, cancellation, trademark, patent, and copyright 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.
To improve efficiency, in 2020 IMPI partnered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to launch the Parallel Patent Grant (PPG) initiative. Under this new work-sharing arrangement, IMPI will expedite the grant of a Mexican patent for businesses and individuals already granted a corresponding U.S. patent. This arrangement allows for the efficient reutilization of USPTO work by IMPI. The USPTO also 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.
Mexico undertook significant legislative reform to comply with the USMCA. The Mexican Federal Law for Protection of Industrial Property (Ley Federal de Protección a la Propiedad Industrial) went into effect November 5, 2020. The decree issuing this law was published in the Official Gazette on July 1, 2020, in response to the USMCA and the CPTPP. This new law replaced the Mexican Industrial Property Law (Ley de la Propiedad Industrial), substantially strengthening IPR across a variety of disciplines. Mexico amended its Federal Copyright Law and its Federal Criminal Code to comply with the USMCA. The amendments went into effect July 2, 2020. These amendments should significantly strengthen copyright law in Mexico. Still, there are concerns that constitutional challenges filed against notice and takedown provisions as well as TPMs in the amendments may weaken these. provisions.
Still, Mexico has 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; relatively widespread acceptance of piracy and counterfeiting, and lack of resources dedicated to enforcement. In addition, the involvement of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), which control the piracy and counterfeiting markets in parts of Mexico and engage in trade-based money laundering by importing counterfeit goods, 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 2021 Special 301 report published by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Obstacles to U.S. trade include the wide availability of pirated and counterfeit goods in both physical and virtual notorious markets. The 2021 USTR Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy listed these Mexican markets: Tepito in Mexico City, La Pulga Rio in Monterrey, and Mercado 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 Berne 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)
Puebla No. 143
Col. Roma, Del. Cuauhtémoc
06700 México, D.F.
Tel: (52) 55 3601 8270
Fax: (52) 55 3601 8214
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 and Stock Commission (CNBV), the banking system remains healthy and well capitalized.
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. The USMCA maintains national treatment guarantees. 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.
Banxico 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 and administration released secondary regulations in 2019, creating a broad rubric for the development and regulation of innovative financial technologies. 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. The reforms have already attracted significant investment to lending fintech companies and mobile payment companies. However, industry stakeholders suggest insufficient clarity in the authorities’ implementation of the secondary regulations may be eroding the legal certainty the FinTech Law brought to the sector. The CNBV has authorized fourteen fintechs under the FinTech Law to operate in the Mexican market and it is reviewing other applications.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
The GOM 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. Businesses in designated border and tourism zones may deposit more than USD 14,000 per month subject to reporting rules and providing justification for their need to conduct USD cash transactions. Individual account holders 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 to improve clearing services 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 resources totaled MXN 23.4 billion (approximately USD 1.2 billion) in 2021. The FMP is required to publish quarterly and annual reports, which can be found at www.fmped.org.mx.
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.
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 Pemex effort to establish transparency and public trust in its energy sector.
Mexico published the National Strategy of Climate Change in 2013 with no further update since then and published the Special Program for Climate Change (PECC) in November 2021. Mexico presented its sixth climate change communications report to the UNFCCC in 2018 and submitted its National Determination Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC in December 2020.
Mexico published its National Biodiversity Strategy in 2016. Mexico published the second extensive country study of Natural Capital in 2006. Mexico presented its Sixth National Report to the UN Convention on Biological Biodiversity in 2019.
Mexico has not released an official net-zero carbon emissions policy or strategy.
The PECC 2021 highlights include private sector climate change actions and fostering the inclusion of the private sector in the National Infrastructure Fund (Fonadin) to invest in sustainable infrastructure.
In October 2019, the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) released an agreement to set the bases for a pilot program for a cap-and-trade emissions system for the energy and industry sectors. SEMARNAT hasn’t reported updates on this pilot program.
The 2022 GOM budget allocated USD 3.84 billion for the Adaptation and Mitigation of the Effects of Climate Change and for the Promotion of the Use of Clean Technologies and Fuels.
Corruption exists in many forms in the GOM 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.
Government and law enforcement officials are sometimes complicit with criminal elements, posing serious challenges for the rule of law. Some of the most common reports of official corruption involve government officials stealing from public coffers, creating fake companies to divert public funds, or demanding bribes in exchange for not prosecuting criminal activity or 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 asserts that the government must take more systematic, effective, and frequent action to address corruption at the institutional level.
Mexico adopted a constitutional reform in 2014 to transform the current Office of the Attorney General into an Independent Prosecutor General’s office to increase 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. After seven years of operation, commentators attribute few successes to the SNA. The implementation status of the mandatory state-level anti-corruption legislation varies.
The reform mandated a redesign of the Secretariat of Public Administration to give it additional auditing and investigative functions and capacities in combatting public sector corruption. 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 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, SEDENA, and SEMAR, and transferred control of contracting offices in other ministries to the Hacienda. 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.
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 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 improved noticeably but expanding access to information at the state and local level has been slow. According to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index, Mexico ranked 124 of 180 nations. Civil society organizations focused on fighting corruption are high-profile at the federal level but are few in number and less powerful at the state and local levels.
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.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
Companies have reported general security concerns remain an issue for those looking to invest in the country. The American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico estimates in a biannual report that security expenses cost business as much as 5 percent of their 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 (https://www.osac.gov/Country/Mexico/Detail).
11. Labor Policies and Practices
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’s 56 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. In the formal economy, there exist large labor shortages due to a system that incentivizes informality. 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 due to wages sometimes being less that what can be earned in the informal economy, although the recent increases in the minimum wage are leading to increases in entry level wages which are attracting more workers. Shortages of skilled workers and engineers continue due to a mismatch between industry needs and what schools teach. Mexico has one of the lowest female labor participation rates in the OECD, 45 percent to a 76 percent male participation rate among people legally allowed to work (15 years or older). Barriers for female workers include the culturally assigned role for them as caretakers of children and the elderly. Most Mexican workers work for a micro business (41 percent) and 59 percent earn between USD 8.6 and USD 17 per day. The unemployment rate in Mexico has maintained a stable path ranging from 3.5 percent to 4.9 percent (its highest peak during the pandemic). This rate, however, masks the high level of underemployment (14.8 percent) in Mexico (those working part time or in the informal sector when they want full time, formal sector jobs). For 2020 the informal economy accounted for 22 percent of total Mexican GDP according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography. Informal businesses span across all economic activities from agriculture to manufacturing. In Mexico labor informality also spans across all economic activities with formal businesses employing both formal and informal workers to reduce their labor costs.
On May 1, 2019, Lopez Obrador signed into law a sweeping reform of Mexico’s labor law, implementing a constitutional change and focusing on the labor justice system. The reform replaces tripartite dispute resolution entities (Conciliation and Arbitration Boards) with independent judicial bodies and conciliation centers. In terms of labor dispute resolution mechanisms, the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards (CABs) previously adjudicated all individual and collective labor conflicts. Under the reform, collective bargaining agreements will now be adjudicated by federal labor conciliation centers and federal labor courts.
Labor experts predict the labor reform will result in a greater level of labor action stemming from more inter-union and intra-union competition. The Secretariat of Labor, working closely with Mexico’s federal judiciary, as well as state governments and courts, created an ambitious state-by-state implementation agenda for the reforms, which started November 18, 2020, and will end during the second semester of 2022. On November 18, 2020 the first phase of the labor reform implementation began in eight states: Durango, State of Mexico, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, and Hidalgo. On November 3, 2021 the second phase started in 13 additional states, and the third phase will start during 2022 in 11 states. Further details on labor reform implementation can be found at: www.reformalaboral.stps.gob.mx.
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, of which more than half are believed to be protection contracts. As of March 7, 2022, 3,267 collective bargaining contracts have been legitimized (reviewed and voted on by the workers covered by them), according to the Secretariat of Labor. The reform requires all collective bargaining agreements to be submitted to a free, fair, and secret vote every two years with the objective of getting existing protectionist contracts voted out. The increasingly permissive 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.
The USMCA’s labor chapter (Chapter 23) contains specific commitments on union democracy and labor justice which relate directly to Mexico’s 2019 labor reform and its implementation. In addition, the USMCA’s dispute settlement chapter (Chapter 31) includes a facility-specific labor rapid response mechanism to address labor rights issues and creates the ability to impose facility specific remedies to ensure remediation of such situations.
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. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and Other Investment Insurance or Development Finance Programs
U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)
Since 2018 the U.S. DFC has pursued potential investment projects in Mexico, and the country rapidly became one of the top destinations for projects with DFC support. Still, Mexico and the DFC do not have a formal agreement in place.
US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)
Mexico is a priority country for the USTDA, and the Agency is supporting infrastructure projects in the country with grant funds for feasibility studies and technical assistance. USTDA also has a robust pipeline of prospective project opportunities they plan to support with their project preparation tools.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source*
USG or international statistical source
USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)