Mexico and the Nearshoring Opportunity – A Strategic Shift in Global Manufacturing

Nearshoring to Mexico

In recent years, the global manufacturing landscape has been undergoing a significant transformation, driven by factors such as geopolitical tensions, supply chain disruptions, and the pursuit of cost efficiencies. One of the most compelling trends emerging from this shift is nearshoring, particularly in Mexico. As foreign direct investment (FDI) in China plummets, Mexico stands out as a natural candidate for relocation due to its strategic location, robust internal market, manufacturing capabilities, and extensive trade agreements. Let’s dive into what this means for businesses and the broader economic landscape.

The Decline of FDI in China

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in China has seen a significant decline over recent years, dropping from a high of over $101 billion in April 2022 to just $6.7 billion in July 2023. This downturn has been driven by multiple factors, including increasing labor costs, regulatory uncertainties, and geopolitical tensions and highlights the shifting sentiment among global investors who are now looking towards more stable and cost-effective regions for their investments.

Mexico: A Natural Candidate for Nearshoring

Mexico's strategic location, robust internal market, manufacturing capabilities, and extensive trade agreements make it an ideal candidate for nearshoring. The country's proximity to the United States, the world's largest consumer market, allows for shorter supply chains and reduced transportation costs. Additionally, Mexico's participation in the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) ensures favorable trade terms and reinforces its position as a critical player in North American trade.

Some of the key advantages of nearshoring to Mexico, include:

  1. Economic Stability and Growth Potential:
    • Mexico's GDP ranked 14th globally in 2022 and second in Latin America. This economic stability is crucial for businesses looking for a reliable investment environment.
    • The country's strong internal market and consistent economic performance over the past two decades further enhance its appeal.
  2. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI):
    • In the first half of 2023 alone, Mexico attracted $29 billion in FDI, with significant contributions from the United States, Spain, and Germany. This influx of investment underscores the confidence global investors have in Mexico's potential as a nearshoring hub.
  3. Trade Agreements and Market Access:
    • Mexico has 14 free trade agreements with 50 countries, providing unparalleled market access. This network of trade agreements ensures that businesses operating in Mexico can easily export to numerous global markets without facing prohibitive tariffs or trade barriers.
  4. Skilled Labor Force:
    • Mexico’s labor market is dynamic, with a 60.3% economically active population in 2022 and a growing number of postgraduate students, particularly in STEM fields, which made up 25% of graduates in 2022; this field is critical for industries such as manufacturing, technology, and engineering.
    • The country also has a strong industrial base, with nine industries ranked in the top three globally for competitive advantage. 
  5. Infrastructure and Industrial Parks:
    • The country is continually improving its infrastructure, including ports, highways, railroads, and customs facilities, to support industrial growth. However, challenges such as energy supply and administrative procedures need to be addressed to fully leverage Mexico's nearshoring potential.

Comparative Advantage and Industrial Strength

Mexico's manufacturing sector is a key driver of its comparative advantage in nearshoring with several manufacturing sectors being particularly competitive on a global scale:

  • Basic Metals and Metal Products: Mexico ranks first globally in these categories, indicating its dominance and expertise in metal manufacturing.
  • Electronic Equipment and Machinery: The country ranks second in both sectors, showcasing its capability to produce high-tech and complex products.
  • Electrical Equipment: Another strong sector, ranking second globally.
  • Transport Equipment: Mexico is a major player, especially in the automotive industry, ranking second in equipment manufacturing.

Rising Competition from Other Countries

While Mexico stands out as a prime nearshoring destination, it faces competition from other emerging markets such as Vietnam, which has steadily increased its share of US imports over the years. Vietnam's rise can be attributed to its lower labor costs, favorable trade agreements like the CPTPP and EVFTA, and significant government incentives for foreign investors. Additionally, Vietnam has a rapidly growing manufacturing sector and a young, dynamic workforce, which appeal to businesses looking for cost-effective production solutions. However, Mexico's strategic advantages, particularly its proximity to the US, should give it a competitive edge.

If Mexico capitalizes on its nearshoring potential, it could significantly improve its global economic rankings. By 2050, Mexico could rise to the 10th largest economy, become the 5th largest exporter, and rank among the top producers of vehicles and tourism destinations. By addressing key challenges such as energy supply, bureaucratic processes, and water supply, Mexico can further solidify its status as a global manufacturing and export leader, offering unparalleled opportunities for companies looking to streamline their supply chains and reduce geopolitical risks.

Supply Chain
Nuvo Newsletter

Want to stay up-to-date on all things freight?

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and get the latest insights and updates in cross-border freight- delivered right to your inbox.