What Are The Pros and Cons of Setting Up a Maquiladora?

October 15, 2019

The past decade has ushered in an era of unprecedented economic growth and development within Mexico. Viewed as an emerging market, particularly in the commodities and manufacturing sectors, it now has the 15th largest economy in the world with a 2018 GDP of $2.6 trillion. Economists suggest that the recent growth within the Mexican economy’s manufacturing sector has been spurred on by changes in foreign markets and trade policy. In response, companies in the United States have begun to forgo conducting their business in China in favor of Mexican maquiladoras

For those of you considering making the switch, below, we’ll discuss the maquiladoras pros and cons so that you can make an informed business decision. 

Maquiladoras Pros and Cons

Maquiladora companies are: “Mexican assembly plants that import materials and equipment on a duty-free and tariff-free basis. Maquiladoras receive raw materials from companies in the U.S. to assemble and export back as finished manufactured goods. Maquiladoras are generally owned by U.S. companies that are incentivized to build Maquilas in Mexican border towns in return for talented and affordable labor cost and savings.” 

How do maquiladoras benefit Mexico? There are more benefits and pros to manufacturing in Mexico that outweigh the disadvantages of manufacturing in Mexico. Among reasons such as, various tax benefits, proximity to the U.S., lower labor costs, and a highly skilled workforce, maquiladoras benefit not only Mexico’s workers and the country’s economy, but also the companies looking to manufacture in Mexico. Simply put, maquiladoras benefit Mexico because they incentivize external investment by encouraging foreign investors and businesses—especially United States ones—to set up plants in Mexico. Further motivation was created by the 2006 IMMEX decree, which sought to lift many of the trade barriers to entry; in particular, it allowed for the duty free temporary import of:

  • Raw materials
  • Components
  • Parts
  • Shipping containers
  • Machinery

So long as they were exported, no tariffs were charged. 

This is but one of the enticements for US companies to start manufacturing in Mexico with their own maquiladora program. Others include: 

  • Location – Mexico’s strategic proximity to the U.S. dramatically reduces the costs of transportation, especially as global oil prices continue to increase, which makes it a comparative advantage to that of Asia’s manufacturing options. The closeness to the northern border and heavy infrastructure investments make for quicker turnaround times and heightened visibility and control over the supply chain. Rest assured, the production cost reductions are crucial assets to achieving cost-effective solutions for any manufacturing company. 
  • Highly skilled labor force – Mexico maquiladora companies boast competitive labor rates, now cheaper than those in China. According to trading economics:

Wages in Manufacturing in Mexico are expected to be 2.40 USD/Hour by the end of this quarter, according to Trading Economics global macro models and analysts’ expectations. Looking forward, we estimate Wages in Manufacturing in Mexico to stand at 2.50 in 12 months’ time. In the long-term, the Mexico Nominal Hourly Wages in Manufacturing is projected to trend around 3.00 USD/Hour in 2020, according to our econometric models.

Despite the fact that the minimum wage is less than in China, Maquiladoras’ labor forces consist of highly trained and skilled workers. Over recent decades, Mexico has gone to great lengths to train, educate, and encourage its citizenry to enter this industry. These factors can ultimately increase job creation and productivity growth in Mexico, which is another reason why maquiladoras benefit the country.

  • Timely arrival into emerging markets – While there has been increased foreign investment and interest in Mexico’s maquiladora plants, it still is a relatively fledgling market, with massive growth on the horizon. By beating the rush, you can derive competitive advantage and gain control of your sector before competitors have the opportunity. Common advantages you can expect to reap include:
    • An unsophisticated market 
    • Cheap labor
    • Governmental backing
    • Little competition 
    • Decreased operational costs
      • Labor
      • Managerial 
      • Leasing 
      • Utilities
  • Ability to be within foreign trade zones According to CHT: “Maquiladora operations are primarily found in industrial and business parks adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border reaping additional benefits from designated Foreign Trade Zones. The manufacturing ecosystem of Nogales, Mexico, and Santa Cruz County, Arizona is an example of the symbiosis of increased flexibility and trade benefits.” By setting up your maquiladora in a foreign trade zone, you reap layered tax and tariff benefits. 
  • Trade agreements – Mexico currently has 12 multilateral trade agreements, including the USMCA, granting it access to 44 countries. This makes it one of the most welcoming countries in the world for foreign direct investment and international trade.

Potential Disadvantages to Manufacturing in Mexico

Naturally, you may be curious about the concerns or reticence some US companies doing business in Mexico may have. Common complaints and potential disadvantages to manufacturing in Mexico include:

  • Environmental negligence
  • Health risks
  • Cultural differences
  • Underpaid labor
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Poor labor protection laws

Fortunately, many of these concerns have been addressed or are in the process of being tackled by the Mexican government. Recent laws and practices have sought to encourage best practices for both labor and the environment. The government, in particular, has allowed labor unions to form and has started levying heavy penalties on companies that fail to comply with new safer environmental standards and labor laws. 

Maquiladoras in Mexico

The growing number of American businesses transferring their plants from China (and the U.S.) to Mexico are clear indicators that most companies believe the pros of Mexico maquiladoras far outweigh the cons. And while there is always room for improvement, the future looks very bright for maquiladoras in Mexico and the Mexican manufacturing sector. 

Knowing this, if you’re considering making the move to offshoring, now’s the time. Should you need help in this endeavor, NAPS stands ready to assist with any needs or questions you might have! 

 

pros and cons of a maquiladora


Content reviewed for accuracy & relevancy by:

Megan Richford

This content has been reviewed for accuracy by Megan Richford. As NAPS’ Marketing and Communications strategist for the last 7 years, Richford has become an expert in the industry with extensive knowledge of the manufacturing industry in Mexico.