Mexico finally starts setting its path towards a strong economy. With many structural reforms to its Constitution, especially the finally-approved energy reforms which benefit both the country and foreign investors, the Latin American country is quickly beating China and becoming the manufacturing base of many companies. Even Chinese companies are looking for opportunities in Mexico. This may come as a surprise considering the fact that many shifted to East Asia due to the higher crime rate among other issues. However, Mexico offers more advantages, all of which can make it the next top manufacturing hub, specially in the automotive sector.

One of the biggest perks of carrying out manufacturing procedures in Mexico is its manufacturing wages. China’s wages have increased immensely and are expected to be 30% higher than Mexico’s come 2015. Unfortunately, companies couldn’t get an equally high labor productivity rate. Mexico, on the other hand, boasts superior worker productivity and quality for less. This is definitely an incentive for companies limping their way out of the last recession period.

Mexico’s large number of free-trade agreements also acts as a catalyst for the country’s evolution into a manufacturing hub. Mexico boasts 44 free-trade agreements, including the profitable North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This number exceeds its rival China’s agreements (18) and its North American neighbor the United States (20 partners). Through these agreements, Mexico can import raw materials and export deliverable products for fewer to no customs. This helps both the country and foreign manufacturers achieve a unique win-win scenario. The negotiations of Mexico to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership would come to fruition to increase its market to major global economies.

Also driving the Mexican manufacturing boom is the lower energy costs. This may sound impossible, especially considering the fact that the Mexican manufacturing industry pays comparable or higher rates than that in the United States. However, thanks to Mexico’s green power ventures, companies are taking advantage of their own solar panel arrays and backing them up with windmills. Mexican solar potential is high. As a result, they can produce their own electricity, connect to the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) grid, and down-load it to others for a low “wheeling” fee. What’s even more tempting is the fact that electricity rates vary by region as well as time of day and type of off-taker. Therefore, factories commonly built in Sonora, Nuevo Leon and Baja California don’t pay much despite running their air conditioners non-stop for six months. Now Energy reform would allow private companies to generate and deliver energy allowing manufacturers to make NAFTA-throughout deals with regional energy suppliers.

U.S. natural gas exports are also being used to fuel the Mexican manufacturing sector. According to Bentek Energy, two billion cubic feet a day have been exported from the U.S. through the southern border and the number could double in the upcoming years once the new pipelines from Texas and Arizona are opened. While Mexico does have its own rich shale resources, its lack of expertise and technology prevent it from tapping into them. “The Mexicans have an incentive to import U.S. gas because it’s basically dirt cheap for them compared to other sources of energy,” commented RBN Energy LLC analyst Sandy Fielden.

The Mexican Minister of Energy also pointed out that choosing U.S. gas over oil and diesel is bound to reduce electricity costs and give the economy a much needed push. This explains why the CFE is currently seeking bids for three natural-gas pipelines from the U.S. Operations through these are expected to start by the end of 2015 according to the vice president of GDF Suez, which is in charge of building the Los Ramones pipeline from Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas to Central Mexico.

With so much to offer, Mexico’s industry clusters will grow and reel in more people. By 2013, it has ready ascertained its position as a major auto manufacturer with 89 out of 100 global auto part makers setting up factories in the country. The appliances market also grew with 70 manufacturers there and busy producing large and small appliances. It won’t be long before other manufacturers follow suit and choose Mexico as their main production hub.

Photo credit: PAACE Automechanika Mexico City 2014 by Alberto Esenaro

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