Economy of Mexico

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Mexico Map Economy History

Mexico is highly dependent on exports to the U.S., which account for almost a quarter of the country's GDP. The result is that the Mexican economy is strongly linked to the U.S. business cycle. With the downturn in the U.S. economy in 2001, there was little or no growth in Mexico in 2001. Depending on the strength of the recovery in the U.S. in 2002, growth in Mexico in 2002 will probably be between 1%-1.5%.

Mexican trade policy is among the most open in the world, with Free Trade Agreements with the U.S., Canada, the EU, and many other countries. Since the 1994 devaluation Mexican governments have improved the country's macroeconomic fundamentals. Moody's (in March 2000) and Fitch IBCA (in January 2002) have issued investment-grade ratings for Mexico's sovereign debt. The upgrade from Fitch IBCA was based in part on the determination that Mexico has not been significantly affected by "contagion" from Argentina's debt crisis.

Mexico is one of the world's most trade dependent countries, and it is particularly dependent on trade with the U.S, which buys approximately 85% of its exports. Top U.S. exports to Mexico include motor vehicle parts, electronic equipment, and agricultural products. Top Mexican exports to the U.S. include petroleum, cars, and electronic equipment. There is considerable intra-company trade.

Mexico is an active and constructive participant in World Trade Organization (WTO) matters, including in the launching of the Doha trade round. The Mexican Government and many businesses support a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Given the overall size of trade between Mexico and the United States, there are remarkably few trade disputes, involving relatively small dollar amounts. These disputes are generally settled in WTO or NAFTA panels or through negotiations between the two countries. The most significant areas of friction involve trucking, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and a number of other agricultural products.

Mexico's agrarian reform program began in 1917, when the government began distribution of land to farmers. Extended further in the 1930s, delivery of land to peasants continued into the 1960s and 1970s at varying rates. This cooperative agrarian reform, which guaranteed small farmers a means of subsistence livelihood, also caused land fragmentation and lack of capital investment, since commonly held land could not be used as collateral. Regionally poor soils, several recent years of low rainfall, and rural population growth have made it difficult to raise the productivity and living standards of Mexico's subsistence farmers.

There have been programs that provide money to pay off loans and help banks with their debt burdens. While high credit costs are still a major problem impeding agricultural development, the burden of debt has been reduced. High interest rates for loans have compounded the difficulty for producers, and the 1994 peso crisis exacerbated the decline in productivity. Agriculture accounted for 5.8% of GDP in 1999.

In an effort to raise rural productivity and living standards, Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution was amended in 1992 to allow for the transfer of communal land to the farmers cultivating it. They then could rent or sell it, opening the way for larger farms and economies of scale. By early 1996, however, only six farmers' cooperatives had voted to dissolve themselves, perhaps because the government provides subsidies for communal land seeded by farmers. (The subsidy was 708 pesos per hectare in 1999-2000 and 829 pesos per hectare in 2000-01.) Since communal land use is formally reviewed only every 2 years, privatization of these communal lands may continue to be very slow.

In the past, the government encouraged production of basic crops such as corn and beans by maintaining support prices. In order to stimulate its agricultural sector, Mexico is restructuring its support price scheme. The government in 1996 crafted federal-to-state agreements targeted at each states' most urgent needs, with the goal of increasing the use of modern equipment and technology in order to increase per-acre productivity. In addition to this new initiative, the government is continuing PROCAMPO, the rural support program which provides the approximately 3.5 million farmers who produce basic commodities--about 64% of all farmers--with a fixed payment per hectare of cropland.

Manufacturing and Foreign Investment
Manufacturing accounts for about 22% of GDP and grew by 9.4% in 2000. Manufacturing probably fell or was stagnant in 2001 because exports to the U.S. probably fell. Construction grew by almost 7% in 2000 but was probably stagnant in 2001.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) presents a bright picture in the Mexican economy. In 2000, Mexico was the largest recipient of FDI ($22.5 billion) in Latin America. Net U.S. FDI in Mexico in 2000 was $3.2 billion, and the 2000 U.S. stock of FDI in Mexico was $34.5 billion (U.S. BEA numbers). U.S. FDI is concentrated in the manufacturing (mostly maquiladora or in-bond plants) and financial sectors. Final numbers for 2001 have not been published; the largest U.S. investment in 2001 was Citigroup's $12.2 billion acquisition of Banamex. This investment was the main reason Mexico received more FDI than Brazil in 2001.

Oil and Gas
In 2000 Mexico was the world's fifth-largest oil producer, its 10th- largest oil exporter, and the fourth-largest supplier of oil to the United States. Oil and gas revenues are expected to provide about one-third of all Mexican Government revenues in 2002.

Mexico's state-owned oil company, Pemex, holds a constitutionally established monopoly for the exploration, production, transportation, and marketing of the nation's oil. Since 1995, private investment in natural gas transportation, distribution, and storage has been permitted, but Pemex remains in sole control of natural gas exploration and production.

Transportation and Communications
Mexico's land transportation network is one of the most extensive in Latin America. More than 4,000 kilometers (2,400 mi.) of four-lane highway have been built through government concessions to private sector contractors since 1989, of which 3,500 kilometers (2,100 mi.) have been constructed since 1994. The 26,622 kilometers (16,268 mi.) of government-owned railroads in Mexico have been privatized through the sale of 50-year operating concessions.

Tampico and Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, are Mexico's two primary seaports. Recognizing that the low productivity of Mexico's 108 ports poses a threat to trade development, the government has steadily been privatizing port operations to improve their efficiency. A number of international airlines serve Mexico, with direct or connecting flights from most major cities in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Latin America. Most Mexican regional capitals and resorts have direct air services to Mexico City or the United States. Airport privatization, based on Mexico's successful experience with seaports, is nearly complete.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $915 billion (2000 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 3.7% (1999 est.), 7.1% (2000 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $9,100 (2000 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture:  5%
industry:  27%
services:  68% (2000)
Population below poverty line: 27% (1998 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.8%
highest 10%: 36.6% (1996)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 15% (1999 est.), 9% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 39.8 million (2000)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 20%, industry 24%, services 56% (1998)
Unemployment rate: urban - 2.2% (2000); plus considerable underemployment
revenues:  $125 billion
expenditures:  $130 billion (2000 est.)
Industries: food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals, iron and steel, petroleum, mining, textiles, clothing, motor vehicles, consumer durables, tourism
Industrial production growth rate: 4% (1999 est.), 7.5% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production: 182.492 billion kWh (1999)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel:  74.12%
hydro:  17.75%
nuclear:  5.21%
other:  2.92% (1999)
Electricity - consumption: 170.754 billion kWh (1999)
Electricity - exports: 11 million kWh (1999)
Electricity - imports: 1.047 billion kWh (1999)
Agriculture - products: corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, cotton, coffee, fruit, tomatoes; beef, poultry, dairy products; wood products
Exports: $168 billion (f.o.b., 2000), includes in-bond industries (assembly plant operations)
Exports - commodities: manufactured goods, oil and oil products, silver, fruits, vegetables, coffee, cotton
Exports - partners: US 88.6%, Canada 2%, Spain 0.9%, Germany 0.9%, Japan 0.6%, UK 0.6%, Netherlands Antilles 0.5%, Switzerland 0.3% Venezuela 0.3%, Chile 0.3% (2000 est.)
Imports: $176 billion (f.o.b., 2000), includes in-bond industries (assembly plant operations)
Imports - commodities: metal-working machines, steel mill products, agricultural machinery, electrical equipment, car parts for assembly, repair parts for motor vehicles, aircraft, and aircraft parts.
Imports - partners: US 73.6%, Japan 3.7%, Germany 3.3%, Canada 2.3%, South Korea 2%, China 1.6%, Taiwan 1.2%, Italy 1%, Brazil 1% (2000 est.)
Debt - external: $162 billion (2000)
Economic aid - recipient: $1.166 billion (1995)
Currency: Mexican peso (MXN)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Mexico > Map Economy History