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Import regulations and customs duties  - Distribution - Transportation of goods - Standards - Patents and brands

Import regulations and customs duties

Since Mexico joined the GATT in 1986, few goods have been subject to import license. For the products which are still subject to import license (see table below), the administration in charge of import license is the Economy Secretariat (Secretaria de economia). These licenses are non-transferable. They are valid for a period of 9 months and can be renewed for 3 additional months. All import products have to handle a certificate of origin, and particularly strict requirements are demanded for textiles.
There is a large number of procedures to check the imported goods. About 10% of the goods are checked in detail. In motorcars, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, metallurgy and farm products sectors, about 75% of the arrivals are checked in detail.
All imports have to pass through a customs broker. A statement of import must be presented to the Mexican Customs, along with a commercial invoice, a B/L (or airway bill) and if necessary, with a certificate giving evidence of the origin of goods. The particulars of origin, which allow, among other things, to benefit from duties discounts (especially for textiles) are excessively severe, since Mexico joined the ALENA (annex 401 on the rules of origin). It was then introduced into the national legislation.


ProductImport licenceImport licenceProhibited
Petrochemical productsX
Pharmaceutical productsX
Second hand productsX
Weapons, ammunitions, explosivesX
Second-hand Vehicles X


Customs duties
Mexico applies the Harmonised Customs System. Customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value of the goods, except for goods originating from the USA and Canada where the FOB value is taken as reference.
There are customs duty discounts (and even exemptions) for products helping in the development of the local industry ("Maquiladora" programme).
Mexico signed a certain number of bi or multi-lateral agreements, resulting in the creation of free trade areas:
- The ALENA (definite suppression of customs duties with progressive decrease until 2009, especially for goods under the rules of origin, as recommended in the treaty).
- A certain number of agreements also exist with Latin American countries, notably Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Costa Rica.
- Mexico is also part of the APEC.


Import taxes
VAT applied on goods import:
- standard rate: 15%
- reduced rate: there are two reduced rates: 10% when the company's activities occur in a neighbouring region, 0% in the case of some goods (bare necessities foodstuffs, books, medications, agricultural products)

Customs royalty: 0.8% on the declared value.


Regulations governing payments
In the car sector, in order to be allowed to import motorised vehicles, companies have to prove that they keep on creating a surplus in their external exchanges. Within the framework of the ALENA, these amounts have been gradually reduced for goods originating from US and Canada (formerly 80 cents, 55 cents in 2003 and suppression in 2004)


The three big commercial zones of the country are: the capital (District Federal) and suburbs, Guadalajara and Monterrey. There is an acute influence of the United States on consumer habits. However, it is important to take into account that 20% of the population lives under the poverty line and more than 58% in precarious conditions.

The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
The emergence of a middle class in the recent years has considerably increased the importance of the large-scale distribution sector. The traditional business suffered from the emergence of the large-scale distribution but the trend is now reversing. The beneficiary of this new competition is the Mexican consumer who could benefit from decreasing prices in recent years.

Supermarkets have a surface area of 4,000 to 8,999 m² and beyond 9,000 m², they are considered as hypermarkets. Wall Mart de México, Controladora Comercial Mexicana and Gigante are the 3 main Mexican groups in terms of large-scale distribution. Two provincial chains have benefited from an important development, Soriana, in the North of the country and Chedraui in the South. The European large-scale distribution practice was adopted in Mexico with Carrefour in 1994, followed by Auchan in 1995.
The concept of mail-order selling and teleshopping is rapidly growing.

The Business to Business (B to B) market
It is recommended to appoint the services of an importer agent to penetrate into the Mexican market. This agent should be registered with the National Register of Importers and Exporters of the Secretariat of Trade and Industrial Development, who should be a Mexican citizen or representing a locally established company.


Transportation of goods

By road
The road network counts 310,000 km of roads, of which only 32% are tarred. 50,000 km are federal roads, 60,000 km are State roads and the rest are countryside roads. The whole network is in a very bad state because of the obsolescence of infrastructure and poor maintenance, despite the efforts made by the Ministry of communication and Transport in recent years. In 1994 , 62.3% of the freight was carried by road transportation.

By rail
The rail network extends over 26,000 km and requires huge investments. It mainly consists in three North-South axis: one along the Pacific Coast, the other one in the centre and the last one in the Northeast region. A fourth axis connects the city of Mexico City with Yucatán. The network connects the 10 big ports of the country and allows 10 access points with the United States. Freight represents 95% of the railway activity.
The network has been almost totally privatised on the last two years. The 1st railroad company, Ferrocarril Mexicano, owns 10,000 km of lines.

By sea
Mexico has 22 commercial ports. Since 1995, the government decentralised the harbour administration and privatised the exploitation of air terminals in certain ports. 29% of the goods are transported by sea. The 4 main ports, which handle 60% of the traffic, are Altamira and Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico and Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas on the Pacific Coast. The other important ports are Puerto Vallarta, Guaymas, Tampico, Topolobampo, Mazatlan and Tuxpan.

By air
Mexico has the most developed airport infrastructure in Latin America, with airports in every cities of more than 500,000 inhabitants. Among the 83 airports of the country, 53 handle international flights. The 7 main airports, handling 90% of the air traffic and the profitable ones, are: Mexico City, Cancun, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Acapulco, Tijuana, Puerto Vallarta. In 1997, 400,000,000 tons of goods were transported by air.


The Mexican Official Standards are compulsory and are delivered by the Secretariat of Commerce and Industrial Development or by another secretariat if the product is subject to regulation standards such as technical standards or Mexican standards of voluntary standardisation (NMX.CC), similar to ISO 9000 standards. The certifications and analyses are made by recognised laboratories with the National System of Accreditation such as the National Laboratory of the Construction and it is necessary to present the certification request to the Standards of the SECOFI Head office (Secretariat of Trade and Industrial Development).

Patents and brands

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Patent Industrial Property Law June 25, 1991, as last amended by the Decree of May 17, 1999 20 years :
Trademark Industrial Property Law June 25, 1991, as last amended by the Decree of May 17, 2000 10 years, renewable for further 10-year periods :
Design Industrial Property Law June 25, 1991, as last amended by the Decree of May 17, 2001 15 years :


Last modified in 2006 - ongoing update
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