Over two years after the enactment of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), aluminum imports from the US to Mexico have reached record levels. As one of the world’s most significant trading blocs, the agreement between the three North American countries includes provisions specifically addressing aluminum and steel, the most important raw materials in several of its main trade products, including automobiles and auto parts.
As such, the USMCA has updated rules of origination which state that to consider a vehicle as originating, at least 70% of the producer’s steel and aluminum purchases must qualify as originating in one of the three countries. This, after tariffs were eliminated on these two products in 2019 to aid in negotiations of the USMCA under Section 232.
This is good news for all three countries and reveals their interdependence. Canada is the world’s fourth largest producer of primary aluminum, behind China, India, and Russia. The US’s norther neighbor imported 81% of its production of this metal to the United States in 2021 and a significant portion to Mexico. On the other hand, over half of all the United States aluminum imports in 2022 originated in Canada.
For its part, Mexico produces very little of the primary aluminum it needs to fuel its rapidly expanding automotive and aerospace industries and has imported growing amounts of this metal over the last decade. In the first semester of 2022, Mexico received 33% of the 219,000 metric tons of semi-finished aluminum products exported from the US, with another 59% of this going to Canada.
Between January and August of 2022, Mexico imported US 3.3 million in aluminum from the United States. This is due to various factors, one of which is undoubtedly the updated rules of origination in the USMCA and increases in automotive, truck, and auto part production in Mexico bound for export to the United States and Canada. The updated rules of origination in the USMCA raised the regional value content (RVC) for these products, including passenger vehicles and light trucks, to 75% compared with 62.5% under NAFTA.
The increase in Mexico’s aluminum imports from the US follows overall increases since 2011 of US 2.1 million, 2.4 in 2013, 2.4 in 2016, 3.0 in 2018, and a rebound from a low during the pandemic of 1.8 million. The US Department of Commerce reports that this number of US 3.3 million in the first eight months of 2022 represents an increase over the same period last year of 34.3% and an all-time record.
Congressional analyses in the US reveal that global demand for semi-finished aluminum and aluminum products is expected to increase by up to 80% by 2050. This is good news for the North American market, favoring more dynamism and highlighting the need for strengthening the supply chains for the exchange, recycling, processing, and manufacture of these metals in the future. This is also beneficial for the automotive and aerospace industries in Mexico, which are poised for continued growth and development in both manufacturing and research and development.
With very few tariff barriers left on US imports to Mexico under the USMCA, the economic interdependence and strengthening of these key trade areas are vital to increasing the agility of North American supply chains and ensuring continuity and growth of industry across the borders of all three countries.
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