By Kary Vannice
With the seemingly endless talk of a border wall between the United States and Mexico and the current US administration’s dialogue about Mexico in general, it would seem that America is not too interested in anything that comes from “south of the border.” But last year’s statistics on Mexico’s international exports would suggest otherwise.
The United States is by far and away the biggest importer of Mexican-made goods. In 2018, the US imported a whopping 76.5% of all Mexico exports, adding up to $334.9 billion US dollars. (Only China sent more goods than Mexico that year.) Canada ranks second on Mexico’s list of importers, having imported $14.1 billion US worth of goods last year. Nearly 80% of all Mexican exports stay within North America.
So why don’t you often see “Hecho en México” on products and goods? Well, because not much of what’s exported comes with a visible label or sticker that tells you where it was made. The number one export is vehicles, more than 25% of overall exports in 2018. That’s followed up by electronic equipment, machinery, and oil & fuel. The top ten exports round out with iron and steel, then gems and precious metals. Just try and find the “Hecho en México” insignia on any of those products. You may have more luck with furniture, lighting, and signs, which rank number 6, or vegetables (number 8). But they only account for 4% of overall exports combined.
While there are only a few Mexican car companies, very small and devoted to niche vehicles, Mexico has become a favored manufacturing company for Ford, Chrysler, GM, VW, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, and Honda. And, of course, proximity to the US and Canada makes vehicle exports much more viable for VW and the Asian companies. Vehicles also rank in the top three imports to countries like China, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the UK and Chile. Only one of Mexico’s top 10 importers – the Netherlands – did not have vehicles in their top 5 imports.
But Mexico’s not just shipping out cars. Electronic equipment, medical equipment and/or pharmaceuticals also made the list for all ten countries; plastics made 8 of the 10 countries’ lists. And beverages made half of the countries’ lists. Think beer and tequila. And, of course, many lists contained Mexico’s natural resources, such as copper, zinc, ores, precious metals, gems, and foods like fruits and nuts, vegetables, dairy, eggs, and honey.
There were also some very surprising top ten exports, such as meat and fish, which went to South Korea and Japan, respectively. China, Mexico’s third-biggest importer, brought in food waste, animal fodder, and rawhides (excluding fur skins).
But, by far, the fastest growing, and most surprising export for Mexico in 2018 was silk, which was up 1,376% from 2014. Along the same lines, also making the top 25 fastest-growing exports list were feathers and hair (up 35.2%), leather & animal gut articles (up 30.6%), and tanning & dying extracts (up 29.9%).
If you’re not from Mexico and you’re buying Mexican-made products at home or abroad, you’re most likely supporting what one would call “big business.” So, what kind of impact could you possibly be having on the Mexican economy? Well, those big businesses employ millions of local laborers. Supporting them means supporting, to some degree, those laborers, their families, and communities.
If you want to make an even more significant contribution, buy Mexican-made in Mexico. In Mexico, there are more than 4 million small and medium enterprises, 97% of which are considered micro-companies. These small businesses are a major economic force in this country. So, if you want to help the national market of Mexico with your pesos, buy local as much as possible.
When you buy Mexican products in Mexico, you:
1) support not just the manufacturer, but also the entire supply chain from the supplier to the factory floor to your door
2) help money stay within the borders of Mexico to foster more innovation, creativity, and expansion
3) aid the economic development of local communities, social organizations, and cooperatives
4) make it possible for employers to provide fairer salaries and better working conditions
5) reduce pollution and contamination that goes into packing and shipping over long distances
6) foster a stable economy
7) support the unique “identity” of Mexican-made products and help position them in the international market
If you’re reading The Eye, I’m sure you appreciate Mexico and its people. And, no doubt, Mexico has contributed something special to your life. So, consider buying Mexican-made products a way to “give back.” Whether you’re an expat, immigrant, or a local, look for the “Hecho en México” label on the products that you buy. And don’t limit yourself to the items that you’ve just read about. Make it a game to see just how many different products you can find . . . and buy.