1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Mexico is open to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the vast majority of economic sectors and has consistently been one of the largest emerging market recipients of FDI. Mexico’s macroeconomic stability, large domestic market, growing consumer base, rising skilled labor pool, welcoming business climate, and proximity to the United States all help attract foreign investors.
Historically, the United States has been one of the largest sources of FDI in Mexico. According to Mexico’s Secretariat of Economy, FDI flows to Mexico from the United States totaled USD 12.3 billion in 2018, nearly 39 percent of all inflows to Mexico (USD 31.6 billion). The automotive, aerospace, telecommunications, financial services, and electronics sectors typically receive large amounts of FDI. Most foreign investment flows to northern states near the U.S. border, where most maquiladoras (export-oriented manufacturing and assembly plants) are located, or to Mexico City and the nearby “El Bajio” (e.g. Guanajuato, Queretaro, etc.) region. In the past, foreign investors have overlooked Mexico’s southern states, although that may change if the new administration’s focus on attracting investment to the region gain traction.
The 1993 Foreign Investment Law, last updated in March 2017, governs foreign investment in Mexico. The law is consistent with the foreign investment chapter of NAFTA. It provides national treatment, eliminates performance requirements for most foreign investment projects, and liberalizes criteria for automatic approval of foreign investment. The Foreign Investment Law provides details on which business sectors are open to foreign investors and to what extent. Mexico is also a party to several Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agreements covering foreign investment, notably the Codes of Liberalization of Capital Movements and the National Treatment Instrument.
The new administration stopped funding ProMexico, the government’s investment promotion agency, and is integrating its components into other ministries and offices. PROMTEL, the government agency charged with encouraging investment in the telecom sector, is expected to continue operations with a more limited mandate. Its first director and four other senior staff recently left the agency. In April 2019, the government sent robust participation to the 11th CEO Dialogue and Business Summit for Investment in Mexico sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its Mexican equivalent, CCE. Cabinet-level officials conveyed the Mexican government’s economic development and investment priorities to dozens of CEOs and business leaders.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Mexico reserves certain sectors, in whole or in part, for the State including: petroleum and other hydrocarbons; control of the national electric system, radioactive materials, telegraphic and postal services; nuclear energy generation; coinage and printing of money; and control, supervision, and surveillance of ports of entry. Certain professional and technical services, development banks, and the land transportation of passengers, tourists, and cargo (not including courier and parcel services) are reserved entirely for Mexican nationals. See section six for restrictions on foreign ownership of certain real estate.
Reforms in the energy, power generation, telecommunications, and retail fuel sales sectors have liberalized access for foreign investors. While reforms have not led to the privatization of state-owned enterprises such as Pemex or the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), they have allowed private firms to participate.
Hydrocarbons: Private companies participate in hydrocarbon exploration and extraction activities through contracts with the government under four categories: competitive contracts, joint ventures, profit sharing agreements, and license contracts. All contracts must include a clause stating subsoil hydrocarbons are owned by the State. The government has held four separate bid sessions allowing private companies to bid on exploration and development of oil and gas resources in blocks around the country. In 2017, Mexico successfully auctioned 70 land, shallow, and deep water blocks with significant interest from international oil companies. The Lopez Obrador administration decided to suspend all future auctions until 2022.
Telecommunications: Mexican law states telecommunications and broadcasting activities are public services and the government will at all times maintain ownership of the radio spectrum.
Aviation: The Foreign Investment Law limited foreign ownership of national air transportation to 25 percent until March 2017, when the limit was increased to 49 percent.
Under existing NAFTA provisions, U.S. and Canadian investors receive national and most-favored-nation treatment in setting up operations or acquiring firms in Mexico. Exceptions exist for investments restricted under NAFTA. Currently, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have the right to settle any dispute or claim under NAFTA through international arbitration. Local Mexican governments must also accord national treatment to investors from NAFTA countries.
Approximately 95 percent of all foreign investment transactions do not require government approval. Foreign investments that require government authorization and do not exceed USD 165 million are automatically approved, unless the proposed investment is in a legally reserved sector.
The National Foreign Investment Commission under the Secretariat of the Economy is the government authority that determines whether an investment in restricted sectors may move forward. The Commission has 45 business days after submission of an investment request to make a decision. Criteria for approval include employment and training considerations, and contributions to technology, productivity, and competitiveness. The Commission may reject applications to acquire Mexican companies for national security reasons. The Secretariat of Foreign Relations (SRE) must issue a permit for foreigners to establish or change the nature of Mexican companies.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The World Trade Organization (WTO) completed a trade policy review of Mexico in February 2017 covering the period to year-end 2016. The review noted the positive contributions of reforms implemented 2013-2016 and cited Mexico’s development of “Digital Windows” for clearing customs procedures as a significant new development since the last review.
According to the World Bank, on average registering a foreign-owned company in Mexico requires 11 procedures and 31 days. In 2016, then-President Pena Nieto signed a law creating a new category of simplified businesses called Sociedad for Acciones Simplificadas (SAS). Owners of SASs will be able to register a new company online in 24 hours. The Government of Mexico maintains a business registration website: . Companies operating in Mexico must register with the tax authority (Servicio de Administration y Tributaria or SAT), the Secretariat of the Economy, and the Public Registry. Additionally, companies engaging in international trade must register with the Registry of Importers, while foreign-owned companies must register with the National Registry of Foreign Investments.
In the past, ProMexico was responsible for promoting Mexican outward investment and provided assistance to Mexican firms acquiring or establishing joint ventures with foreign firms, participating in international tenders, and establishing franchise operations, among other services. Various offices at the Secretariat of Economy and the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs now handle these issues. Mexico does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
The data included in the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey is consistent with Mexican government data.
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data, 2017|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||$490,574||100%||Total Outward||$172,919||100%|
|United States||$215,899||44%||United States||$73,199||42%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
The data included in the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) is consistent with Mexican government data.
|Portfolio Investment Assets, June 2018|
|Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)|
|Total||Equity Securities||Total Debt Securities|
|All Countries||$62,148||100%||All Countries||$39,738||100%||All Countries||$22,410||100%|
|United States||$28,487||45.8%||Not specified||$21,340||54%||United States||$17,441||78%|
|Not specified||$24,204||39%||United States||$11,046||28%||Not specified||$2,864||13%|