Flag of Mexico

Mexico country brief

Overview

The partnership between Australia and Mexico is strong and growing. Both countries work closely together in multilateral forums such as APEC, the G20, the World Trade Organization, the International Whaling Commission and within the United Nations. There is also a comprehensive framework of bilateral agreements which supports increased cooperation, including a bilateral Plan of Action (2011), a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation in Agriculture (2010), an MOU on Mining (2010), an MOU on Political Consultations (2009), an MOU on Education and Training (2008), and an MOU on Energy (2005). In 2009, Mexico joined the Australian led Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (GCCSI) as a founding member.

In order to reinvigorate the trade and investment relationship between Australia and Mexico, a Joint Experts Group (JEG) was formed in 2006 and published a report in 2009 on strengthening bilateral economic relations. The JEG report recommended that Ministers revitalise the Joint Trade and Investment Commission (JTIC) through Ministerial level meetings pending emergence of other opportunities to stimulate economic engagement, such as through negotiation of a trade liberalising agreement. Ministerial level meetings of the JTIC were subsequently held in April 2010 (in Mexico) and February 2012 (in Australia), and in October 2012 Mexico formally joined the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to which Australia is also a party.

A Double Taxation Agreement entered into force from 1 January 2004, which clarifies the taxation rights of the two countries and introduces measures to relieve double taxation and prevent fiscal evasion. The Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) between Australia and Mexico, signed in Mexico City on 23 August 2005, entered into force on 21 July 2007.

In July 2013, Virgin Australia expanded its partnership arrangements with Delta Airlines (US) to add six Mexican cities to its destinations. A bilateral Air Services Agreement was signed in April 2010.

The United Mexican States is the world’s fourteenth largest country with a land area slightly larger than Queensland and Victoria combined.  Its climate varies from tropical to desert and the terrain includes high rugged mountains, low coastal plains, high plateaus and desert.  Almost all of Mexico is on the North American plate, with the Pacific Ocean on the West coast and the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea to the East.  It borders with the United States of America to the North and Guatemala and Belize to the South-East.  The name Mexico was derived from the country’s capital Mexico City, which was founded on top of the Aztec capital Mexico-Tenochtitlan, a word of unknown meaning from the Indigenous Nahuatl language.

Mexico’s population is approximately 118.4 million (2013 est).  Most Mexicans are of mixed Indigenous and Spanish descent, with around 30 per cent of the population of predominantly Indigenous descent.  Catholicism is the main religion.  Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world.

Political overview

System of Government

Mexico is a congressional democracy with a directly elected President. The President serves a six-year term and cannot be re-elected. The bicameral Congress comprises 128 Senators, each serving a six-year term, and 500 members in the Chamber of Deputies, serving a three-year term.

Mexico's political climate has changed significantly over the past decade or so. In 2000, the political hegemony of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which had endured in Mexico for 71 years, was broken by the election of President Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN). Fox, a former Chief Executive of Coca-Cola in Mexico and Governor of Guanajuato, defeated the PRI candidate Labastida on a platform of democratic change, an end to corruption and wider community prosperity. During six years in office, Fox's government pursued macroeconomic goals focused on increasing investment and employment. Sound fiscal management promoted economic growth and moved Mexico out of recession.

The 2006 election of Felipe Calderón of the PAN as President continued Fox's economic liberalisation and stable macroeconomic policies. Calderón, who won the Presidency by the slimmest margin in Mexican history, campaigned on a platform of improving employment rates, strengthening investment, and tackling growing crime rates. He sought to enhance national security through police and judicial reform and confronted organised crime. In the six years of his presidency there were some successes in addressing security concerns but also a high death toll associated with organised crime (estimated at over 60,000), with violence spreading beyond the US-border towns to some of Mexico's biggest cities, such as Monterrey. President Calderón presided over continuing economic stability, implementation of universal health coverage and some improvements to education. 

Recent developments

Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI won the July 2012 elections and was inaugurated as President in December 2012. He identified five key goals for his presidency: improving security and justice; combatting poverty; providing quality education for all; maintaining solid economic growth; and re-positioning Mexico in the world, with a focus on enhancing ties with the Asia-Pacific region. Peña Nieto set out his agenda for meeting these goals in the cross-party “Pact for Mexico” (Pacto por México) which outlined a very ambitious and wide-ranging program of structural and regulatory reforms (95 in total) in sectors including education, energy, fiscal policy, internal security, telecommunications and politics. By August 2014, congress had passed legislation for major reforms in the education, telecommunications and energy sectors, as well as fiscal and political-electoral reforms.  Drug-related violence, organised crime and high levels of poverty remain intractable challenges for the Peña Nieto administration.

Foreign policy

Mexico’s relationship with its northern neighbour and most important trading partner, the United States, has traditionally dominated its foreign policy.  However Mexico is now focusing beyond its immediate neighbourhood, including to the Asia-Pacific. 

Since gaining office, President Peña Nieto’s administration has actively pursued its four key foreign policy goals: to consolidate Mexico’s presence on the world stage; to strengthen development-oriented international cooperation; to promote Mexico through a worldwide campaign; and to promote the interests of the country and its citizens abroad.

Bilaterally, President Peña Nieto has been active in building international ties, for example undertaking 16 official visits overseas in 2013 and receiving a large number of overseas visitors, including state visits by the Chinese and US Presidents.  President Peña Nieto has been applauded internationally for Mexico’s ambitious economic reform agenda.

Mexico is also active multilaterally, on issues such as climate change, development and disarmament. 

Bilateral relations

Australia has a strong bilateral relationship with Mexico. In addition to our shared membership of organisations such as the United Nations, G20 and APEC, Australia and Mexico are both members of MIKTA, an informal partnership between Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia which provides a regular opportunity to enhance cooperation on global issues.

In 2014, the Council for Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR) supported the inaugural Australia-Mexico Second Track Dialogue at the ANU’s Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies (ANCLAS).  The Dialogue brought together senior representatives from government, business, academia and the media to discuss the future of the relationship.

Australia’s Embassy in Mexico City is responsible for relations with Mexico.  Mexico maintains an Embassy in Canberra and a Consulate headed by an Honorary Consul in Melbourne.

People to people links

Over 3,000 Mexican-born persons live in Australia, around half of whom are recent arrivals.  While numbers are small, they are climbing rapidly with an 80.5 per cent increase between the 2006 and 2011 censuses.  More information can be found at the Department of Social Services’ Community Information Summary page.

In 2013, around 60,000 Australians travelled to Mexico and around 7,300 Mexicans visited Australia.

Development assistance

From 2010 to 2014, Australia provided $100 million in development assistance to Latin America, including 250 Australia Awards scholarships.  20 Australia Awards fellowships and 30 Australia Awards scholarships were awarded to Mexican students under this program.  The regional program has now closed, though some activities which have already been funded will continue until 2017.

Economic overview

According to the IMF, Mexico's economy was ranked 14th in the world in 2013 (only Brazil has a larger GDP among Latin American countries). It is currently one of only two Latin American members of the OECD (the other is Chile). Mexico is also one of the WTO members with the greatest number of Free Trade Agreements (it currently has a network of 13 FTAs with 45 countries).

The interconnectedness of the Mexican and US economies is well known, stimulated by the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which groups Canada, the US and Mexico. The economic integration is derived from close linkages across four important economic channels: trade, remittances, investment, and financial channels. The trade channel is especially well developed, with around 80 per cent of all Mexican exports destined for sale in the US domestic market. Mexico slipped into a steep recession in 2009 as a result of the global economic crisis and an outbreak of swine flu in April of that year. The economy recovered from a 6.0 per cent contraction in 2009, achieving 5.6 per cent growth in 2010. Growth of 3 per cent is predicted in 2014.

Mexico can attribute its transformation from a highly protected economy to its more open, regionalised and market-based economy of today to widespread trade liberalisation over the past several decades. This has encouraged foreign firms to set up plants to take advantage of relatively low labour costs and proximity to the US market. Economic activity is increasingly dominated by the private sector, but is characterised by a mixture of modern, export-oriented industry and agriculture, alongside more outmoded sections of the domestic economy.

Much of Mexico's modern economy has been driven by competition and export opportunities stemming from Mexico's extensive network of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), covering more than 90 per cent of the country's trade. They include FTAs with Chile, the United States and Canada (NAFTA), the European Union; Israel; Colombia; Bolivia; Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras; Uruguay; the European Free Trade Area (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein), Peru, Japan and Panama. Mexico is currently negotiating FTAs with Brazil and Korea and is a party to the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. Mexico is also a founding member of the outward-looking and Asia-oriented Pacific Alliance, a trade liberalising pact between Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.  Australia became an observer to the Alliance in 2012.

Mexico is one of only five countries in Latin America that currently has 'investment grade' ratings from the major international ratings agencies.  In February 2014, Moody’s upgraded Mexico to an ‘A’ rating, joining Chile as the second such country in Latin America.

For detailed information on Australia and Mexico's bilateral economic and trade relationship, see our Mexico Fact Sheet [PDF 111 KB]

Trade and Investment

Mexico was Australia's largest merchandise trading partner in Latin America in 2013 with two-way trade worth $2.5 billion. Australia's merchandise exports to Mexico were $393 million, dominated by coal. Other exports included medicaments, plastic plates, sheets and film, ores and concentrates and a growing range of services. The trade in Australian education and training services has been especially strong and student numbers continue to grow. Mexico is Australia's fourth largest education and training market in Latin America. In 2013, around 2,000 Mexican students were enrolled in Australian educational institutions, most pursuing higher education. Australian food and wine brands are increasingly on sale in Mexico. The stock of Australian investment in Mexico increased twenty-five fold between 2009 and 2013 to over A$5.3 billion.

Imports of merchandise goods from Mexico have increased significantly over the last decade and were valued at $2.1 billion in 2013. The major imports from Mexico were telecom equipment and parts, passenger motor vehicles and alcoholic beverages. Mexican investment in Australia has largely been concentrated in private real estate and manufacturing, although one of Mexico's largest food companies, tortilla manufacturer Gruma, has its factory Mission Foods located in Victoria. In December 2009 Mexican manufacturing company Metalsa, a subsidiary of Grupo Proeza, acquired two manufacturing plants in Melbourne previously owned by Dana Holding Corporation. Metalsa manufactures structural components for the light and commercial vehicle markets.

Mexico is a significant regional power and a key economy in Latin America. Its size and geographical proximity to the world's largest economy and NAFTA partner, the United States, and very good links to markets in Central and South America, make it an attractive trading partner for Australia. Given complementary economic and trade profiles, there are strong prospects for expanding Australia-Mexico trade and investment, particularly under an eventual TPP.

The energy sector is becoming an increasingly important element of the trade relationship, with the sale of Australian coal to Mexico creating new opportunities for Australian business. Reforms to Mexico’s energy sector, which will put an end to state-owned oil giant Pemex’s decades-old monopoly over oil and gas, offer significant opportunities for Australian companies.  Expansion of mining-related services also offers strong potential for future growth. The relationship has grown as Australian companies in a range of industries (mining services and technology, agribusiness, food and beverages, IT, software, biotechnology, automotive parts and education and professional services) enjoy success in Mexico. There is potential for new areas such as water management equipment and services, clean technology and environmental services including clean energy.

Coal is Australia's largest single export to Mexico, with a total value of A$116 million in 2013. Coal trade with Mexico was enhanced by the Mexican Government's decision in 2002 to remove a 3 per cent tariff from most primary and intermediate goods (including coal) imported from all non-NAFTA sources, which had previously favoured US and Canadian coal exporters.

Mexico attracts significant foreign direct investment due to NAFTA membership and its generally liberal investment laws. The investment environment has improved markedly over the last several decades as a result of domestic reform and the introduction of more simplified procedures, higher ceilings on foreign equity and greater intellectual property protections. Australian direct investment in Mexico is modest but growing, and concentrated in mining, consolidated services (linked to finance and leasing arrangements) followed by manufacturing. Australian companies with interests in Mexico include Macquarie Capital, Incitec Pivot, Nufarm, Elders, Azure Minerals, Global Resources Corporation (Cloncurry Metals), Worley Parsons, Chep, Spotless Group, QBE Insurance, UGL Equis, TNA Packaging, Securency, CSL, Orica, Boart Longyear, Boral, Howe Leather and Lend Lease.

Export opportunities

The Australian Government is working actively to promote and facilitate bilateral trade. The Australian Embassy and Austrade work closely with Australian companies in a range of sectors to help enhance new market opportunities in Mexico. Promotional events are conducted regularly to boost sales of Australian food and wine, education, tourism and mining technology and services. In most sectors, Australian exporters face competition from other sources that benefit from significantly lower tariffs, due to Mexico's existing free trade agreements. However, Mexican companies are continually looking at diversifying their trade relationship and doing business with Australia is now a viable option for many. In addition, the Australian Government devotes considerable effort to improving the regulatory environment for Australian exporters and investors and in assisting Australian exporters to resolve market access issues as they arise.

Energy

Australian capability is well placed to benefit from Mexico's fast rising energy requirements. There are growing opportunities in renewable energy. Australia has also emerged as a major and continuing supplier of thermal coal to Mexico. Reforms to the energy sector in Mexico will potentially open up new opportunities in oil and gas in the longer term.

Food and Agriculture

Opportunity exists for Australian investment in Mexico's food processing sector and for wider engagement on agriculture. There is considerable potential to increase export volumes out of Australia. Australian wine is also well positioned to increase sales among Mexico's growing middle class and the number of Australian wine brands available in Mexico continues to rise. Australian exports of live animals and meat have declined in recent years due to such factors as limited supply from Australia (due to drought conditions), competition from countries with FTAs with Mexico, and the high value of the Australian dollar. Australian agricultural technologies and services have potential in the Mexican market.

Water

Mexico faces complex water management challenges, including droughts, floods, and issues with sanitation and insufficient or outdated infrastructure. The Mexican Government is expected to carry out a number of key water infrastructure improvement projects in the coming years. Such projects will offer opportunities to foreign companies able to supply relevant technologies. In addition to Government and utility companies, the agriculture and mining sectors in Mexico are potential customers for Australian water management technologies and services.

Infrastructure

Construction and engineering account for some 4 per cent of Mexican GDP. New investment in highways, utilities and resorts make Mexico a very attractive potential market for the Australian building, construction and engineering industries. Australian companies are already enjoying success in supplying high-end building products, water treatment technology and a range of services.  Macquarie Capital and Lend Lease are two high profile Australian companies active in the market.

Mining

Mexico is the world's largest producer of silver and bismuth. It is the world's fifth largest lead, sixth largest zinc and tenth largest copper producer. Mexico has a long history of mining and has an attractive regulatory regime and business environment for foreign investment and participation in the sector. A number of Australian technology and services exporters are active in Mexico’s mining sector. Two of the major Mexican players (Grupo Mexico and Luismin) have mining investments in Australia.  The Australian Embassy in Mexico has worked closely with the Mexican Government and private sector to promote greater trade and investment in the sector.

Mexico has large tracts of highly prospective but under-explored land, which offer good opportunities for Australian exploration and mining equipment and technology services companies. There have been a number of significant discoveries in recent years including gold, silver and uranium. Australian Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) companies are under-represented in the Mexican market, and Austrade works with individual companies and maintains a presence at important sectoral events, such as the International Mining Expo in Acapulco, to promote Australian expertise to potential Mexican customers.

Education and Training

There are excellent prospects for expanding Australia's education and training relationship with Mexico. Mexico is now Australia's fourth largest education and training market in Latin America, after Brazil, Colombia and Chile. Increased demand for training to improve productivity and skills is also expected to provide new opportunities for Australia's Vocational Education and Training sector (VET). Australian education services are well regarded in Mexico and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Austrade continue to promote Australia as a quality provider of education services.

Other Services

Market opportunities exist for Australian businesses providing services linked to productivity and efficiency gains across the major industry sectors (energy, mining, construction, agriculture and food processing). The growth of Mexico's middle-class also presents an opportunity for expansion in tourism, financial and professional services and franchising. Australia now has some eight active franchises in the Mexican market.

For information on doing business and opportunities in Mexico, please see http://www.austrade.gov.au/Export/Export-Markets/Countries/Mexico/Market-profile

High level visits

July 2014: Mexican Minister for the Economy Guajardo visited Australia for the G20 Trade Ministers’ meeting.

April 2014: Foreign Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop MP visited Mexico for a meeting of MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, Australia) Foreign Ministers, the first high level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, and bilateral meetings.

2012: Then Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard; then Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, the Hon Wayne Swan; then Minister for Trade, the Hon Craig Emerson and then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Kevin Rudd visited Mexico during its hosting of the G20.

February 2012: Then Mexican Minister for the Economy Ferrari visited Australia for Joint Trade and Investment Commission (JTIC) discussions with then Minister for Trade, the Hon Craig Emerson.

September 2011: Then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Kevin Rudd visited Mexico and signed an Action Plan which provided a framework for strengthening cooperation in key areas of mutual interest.

April 2010: Then Trade Minister, the Hon Simon Crean visited Mexico where he and his Mexican counterpart, then Minister for the Economy Ruiz, convened a meeting of the JTIC.

November 2008: Then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Stephen Smith visited Mexico and signed a MOU on Education to deepen educational ties between the two countries.

September 2007: A visit by President Calderón to Australia for the APEC Summit underscored our mutual interest in strengthening bilateral trade, investment, political and people-to-people links.

Updated August 2014