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Maquiladoras key to active trading: the U.S.-Mexico border is now one of the world's most active trading zones. (2002 Latin-American Markets Supplement).

The manufacturing sector slump may have slowed the pace of trade growth between the U.S. and Mexico, but there is little reason to believe businesses have soured on the region.

That's the view of the U.S. State Department's Berta Gomez, who notes in a report that "maquiladora" plant growth precedes the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that receives much of the credit for the trading boom.

"Reports often omit the contribution of the decades-old initiative that produced the maquiladora plants in Mexico that specialize in assembling finished goods for export, and have helped turn Mexico's northern border into one of the most productive industrial zones in the Americas," writes Gomez concerning the success of maquiladoras.

But the effects of NAFTA should not be discounted either. "In 1993--the year before NAFTA liberalized trade among the U.S., Canada and Mexico--U.S.-Mexico trade totaled $81 billion. Seven years later, bilateral trade had more than tripled to $247 billion," Gomez points out.

THE MAQUILADORA FACTOR

As of late 2001, more than 3,300 maquiladoras were operating throughout Mexico. These Plants employ more than 1 million people and generate up to 40 percent of Mexico's exports, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Nearly two-thirds of the plants are concentrated in Mexico's northern states along the U.S. border.

The plants import partially finished products and components and then assemble or otherwise add value to what has been brought in before shipping the products back to the company of origin--most often the U.S.

The maquiladoras trace their roots to the 1960s, when Mexico's Border Industrialization Program was launched to attract foreign investment. Based on a production-sharing model that had been tried in Portugal, the maquila plants, as they came to be known, were allowed to import duty-free the equipment and materials needed for production.

For its part, the U.S. changed its customs regulations, relaxing import duties on the goods that would be returning from Mexico made from U.S. components or materials. Maquiladora plants established by multi-national corporations flourished in the 1980s and `90s.

There are challenges facing Mexico and its maquiladoras--including China's emergence as a manufacturing site and its acceptance into the World Trade Organization.

Components brought in from non-NAFTA countries have not been eligible for duty-free importation into Mexico since January of 2001. Thus, maquila materials imported from Europe or Asia for use in a product later exported to the U.S. will not enjoy refunded or waived import duties on the intermediate goods.

Despite the challenges, the maquilas have demonstrated their staying power, notes the State Department's Gomez. "The sector withstood the peso crisis of 1994-95, generating 80,000 new jobs in the recession year of 1995, when employment and production in most sectors of the Mexican economy were falling," she writes.

The success of the maquiladoras and NAFTA have secured Mexico's spot as a leading site of opportunity for manufacturers and recyclers.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

On the recycling side, momentum toward increased U.S.-Mexican trade may have slowed somewhat in recent years, if statistics gathered by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Reston, Va., are correct.

In 1998--when steelmakers in both the U.S. and Mexico were operating in a healthier climate for basic materials--Mexico imported a greater amount of ferrous scrap than it did last year. The U.S. sent 961,000 metric tons of ferrous scrap to Mexico that year, compared to just 821,000 metric tons last year. A reviving steel sector in North America may regain some of that ground in 2002, both recyclers and steelmakers hope.

Scrap moving the other direction also has slowed since the steel industry slump has hit both nations. Ferrous scrap moving from Mexico to the U.S. dropped from 75,000 metric tons in 1998 to 51,000 metric tons in 2001.

Copper scrap trading levels fell in many categories in 2001 compared to 2000, although Mexico (along with Canada) remains a leading source of imported copper scrap for U.S. consumers. Mexico's aluminum smelters remain an important destination for scrap dealers, however. While China is followed by Canada as the leading destinations, Mexico and South Korea vie for third in the export rankings.

Several grades of secondary fibers are generated at these plants, in addition to the considerable amounts of old corrugated containers (OCC) generated at maquiladoras of all types in northern Mexico.

The economic health of the basic materials sectors will continue to be a key factor in determining what types of recycling opportunities are available in the U.S.-Mexico border region.

ON THE WEB:

More information on maquiladoras can be found in Carlos Rovelo's feature, "The Maquiladora Effect," from the March 2002 issue of Recycling Today and available online at www.RecyclingToday.com.

The author is editor 0f Recycling Today and can be contacted via e-mail at btaylor@RecyclingToday.com.

Las Maquiladoras Un Factor Importante

Hoy en dia, la frontera entre Mexico y Estados Unidos es una de las zonas comerciales mas activas del mundo. POR BRIAN TAYLOR

Es posible que la depresion sufrida en el sector manufacturero haya disminuido la tasa de crecimiento del comercio entre Mexico y Estados Unidos, pero son escasas las razones para creer que la actividad comercial de la region se haya echado a perder.

Esto es lo que opina Berta Gomez, del Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos, quien indica en un informe que el crecimiento de las plantas "maquiladoras" precede al Tratado de Libre Comercio de America del Norte (TLCAN), al cual se atribuye en gran medida el auge comercial.

"A menudo, en los informes se omite la aportacion que ha realizado la iniciativa que existe desde hace decadas y que dio lugar a las plantas maquiladoras en Mexico especializadas en ensamblar productos terminados para su exportacion. Estas plantas son lo que ha ayudado a convertir a la frontera norte de Mexico en una de las areas industriales mas productivas de America", escribe Gomez refiriendose a las maquiladoras.

Sin embargo, esto no significa que los efectos del TLCAN deban descontarse. "En 1994--un ano antes de que el TLCAN liberalizara el comercio entre Canada, Estados Unidos y Mexico--el comercio entre Mexico y Estados Unidos ascendia a US$81 mil millones. Siete anos despues, el comercio bilateral habia ascendido a mas del triple, a US$247 mil millones", puntualiza Gomez.

EL FACTOR MAQUILADORA

A finales del 2001, mas de 3,300 maquiladoras se encontraban en operacion en todo Mexico. Segun el Departamento de Comercio de Estados Unidos, estas plantas emplean a mas de un millon de personas y generan hasta el 40 por ciento de las exportaciones de Mexico. Casi dos terceras partes de las plantas estan concentradas en los estados del norte de Mexico a lo largo de la frontera con Estados Unidos.

Estas plantas importan componentes y productos parcialmente terminados, los ensamblan o de otra forma agregan valor a dichos productos y despues los envian de regreso a la empresa de origen--casi siempre en Estados Unidos.

Los origenes de las maquiladoras se remontan a los anos sesenta, cuando se inicio el Programa de Industrializacion Fronteriza de Mexico para atraer inversion extranjera. Con base en el modelo de "produccion compartida" (production sharing) que se habia puesto en practica en Portugal, a las plantas de maquila--como llegaron a conocerse--se les permitio importar sin impuestos el equipo y los materiales necesarios para la produccion en dichas plantas.

Por su parte, Estados Unidos modifico sus reglamentos aduanales liberalizando los derechos de importacion que se imponian a los productos que saldrian de Mexico elaborados con componentes o materiales estadounidenses.

Mexico y sus maquiladoras tienen sus retos, incluido el surgimiento de China como una sede para la manufactura y su aceptacion en la Organizacion Mundial de Comercio.

A pesar de estos retos, las maquiladoras han demostrado su permanencia, indica Gomez, del Departamento de Estado. "El sector soporto la crisis del peso de 1994-95 y genero 80,000 trabajos nuevos en 1995, un ano de recesion economica y cuando en la mayoria de los sectores de la economia mexicana, el empleo y la produccion se encontraban en caida".

Esta claro que el exito de las maquiladoras y el acuerdo del TLCAN han asegurado el papel que Mexicojuega como el principal socio comercial de Estados Unidos y como un sitio de oportunidad para fabricantes y recicladores.

QUEDAN MEJORAS POR HACER

Si las estadisticas relacionadas con el reciclaje recopiladas por el Servicio Geologico de los Estados Unidos (USGS), en Reston, Virginia, son correctas, es posible que en anos recientes el impetu hacia un mayor comercio entre Mexico y Estados Unidos haya disminuido un poco.

En 1998--cuando los fabricantes de la industria de acero tanto en Estados Unidos como en Mexico operaban en un clima mas propicio para los materiales basicos--Mexico importo una mayor cantidad de chatarra de metal ferreo que el ano pasado. Ese ano, Estados Unidos envio 961,000 toneladas metricas de chatarra ferrea a Mexico, en comparacion con tan solo 821,000 toneladas metricas el ano pasado.

La chatarra que se transporta en direccion opuesta tambien ha disminuido desde que el receso en la industria del acero se presento en ambos paises. La chatarra ferrea que pasa a Mexico de Estados Unidos disminuyo de 75,000 toneladas metricas en 1998 a 51,000 toneladas metricas en 2001.

En 2001, los niveles del comercio de chatarra de cobre disminuyeron en muchas categorias en comparacion con los niveles del 2000, aunque Mexico (junto con Canada) sigue siendo una fuente lider de chatarra de cobre importada para clientes estadounidenses. Las fundidoras de aluminio mexicanas continuan siendo un importante destino para los distribuidores de chatarra. Aunque a China le sigue Canada como destino principal, Mexico y Corea del Sur compiten por el tercer lugar en la clasificacion de exportaciones.

La posible expansion del comercio libre en el hemisferio occidental, aunada al exito del modelo de manufactura de las maquiladoras, hara de la region fronteriza un corredor industrial importante durante largo tiempo.

EN LA WEB:

Si desea obtener mas informacion sobre maquiladoras, consulte el articulo de Carlos Rovelo "The Maquiladora Effect" en el ejemplar de marzo del 2002 de Recycling Today u obtengalo en linea en www.RecyclingToday.com.
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Article Details
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Author:Taylor, Brian
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Words:1696
Previous Article:A shrinking barrier. (2002 Latin-American Markets Supplement).
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