Despite the strong similarities with selling in the United States and familiarity with U.S. brands and ways of doing business, it is essential to remember language and cultural considerations. In addition to developing strong working relationships with Mexican partners, U.S. firms should use Spanish-language materials and, whenever possible, communicate in Spanish. Be conscious of distinct cultural practices, such as customary hours for breakfast and lunch. Pay attention to pricing. Address worries about after-sales support. Hiring local staff can help facilitate relationships and provide U.S. companies with insight on selling to the Mexican market.
Trade Promotion & Advertising
Mexico has several resources for trade promotion and advertising, which include trade shows, articles in printed media, TV and radio advertisements and advertorials, outdoor advertising, and digital advertising.
There are more than 1,500 trade shows per year in Mexico, which include industry trade shows and consumer-related trade shows.
Mexico City is the top destination for major trade shows. Key cities such as Querétaro, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Veracruz, and Puebla mainly host specialized fairs related to the types of industries in their regions. Tourist destinations such as Cancun, Acapulco, and Los Cabos are popular for conventions, seminars, and hospitality trade fairs.
According to the Mexican Association of Trade Fair, Shows, and Conventions Professionals (Asociación Mexicana de Profesionales en Ferias, Exposiciones, Congresos y Convenciones or AMPROFEC), there are a total of 150 trade show organizers in Mexico divided into three regions: North, South, and Central. For more information about Trade Show organizers and Trade Shows, please consult the AMPROFEC website.
Trade shows offer a good opportunity for U.S. exporters to build market insights, research competition, view marketing trends, and network. Participating in a trade show requires investment in time, money, and human resources. The Commercial Specialists of the U.S. Commercial Service can help you identify events and recommend market strategies for your company. In addition, the U.S. Commercial Service organizes U.S. pavilions in several major trade fairs in Mexico and brings delegations of Mexican buyers to major shows in the United States. Please refer to the Events section of each Leading Sector of this guide.
Print media is popular for advertising in Mexico. According to the National Chamber of the Publishing Industry (Cámara Nacional de la Industria Editorial Mexicana or CANIEM), there are 420 newspapers and 1,600 magazines published in Mexico. Specialized and industry-related magazines are good ways to advertise a service or a product. Articles in these magazines can be paid advertorials. Some magazines directly contact associations or companies for content, offering a space in their publication at a lower cost or as an exchange for content.
Some chambers and associations publish their own magazines in printed and electronic versions distributed to their members. Industry-specific directories can generate traffic to the company website.
According to the specialized marketing agency of Mercado Libre, Mercado Ads, advertising content investment in Mexico in 2021 was distributed as follows: Internet/digital (54%), television (35%), radio (4%), and other forms (7%), including outdoor advertising. Digital advertising appears on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, in browsers such as Google, and digital content and advertising in YouTube. (For more details on digital advertising see the eCommerce section of this guide). Billboards are used extensively for outdoor advertising in Mexico. Both plain paper billboards and digital signage are noticeable on the streets. Mexico City, for instance, has at least 2,500 billboards.
The Alliance for the Strategic Value of Brands (Alianza por el Valor Estratégico de las Marcas or AVE, previously known as AMAP) is a good source to identify the proper advertising agency for your company marketing and advertising strategies. For additional information, visit the AVE website.
United States exporters should look carefully at broker fees, transportation costs, and taxes to determine if products/services can be priced competitively. U.S. companies shipping goods not made in the United States (or goods produced in multiple countries outside of North America) could find their products subject to duties. For more information about import tariffs, see the Trade Barriers section of this guide.
It is also important to take into consideration the value-added tax (Impuesto al Valor Agregado or IVA). With a few exceptions for border transactions or re-export, Mexican Customs (Servicio de Administración Tributaria or SAT) collects IVA from the importer on foreign transactions upon entry of the merchandise into Mexico. The IVA is assessed on the cumulative value consisting of the U.S. plant value of the product (Free On Board or FOB price), plus the inland U.S. freight charges, and any other costs listed separately on the invoice, such as export packing and insurance, plus the duty, if applicable. Temporary imports of raw materials intended for export in final goods may be exempt from IVA under certain conditions.
The IVA is 16 percent nationwide. The importer will pay other fees for such services as inland Mexico freight, warehousing, and customs brokerage fees, if applicable. The IVA is a pass-along tax, typically recovered at the point of sale when the product is sold to the end user. Each time the product is sold, the buyer is charged the IVA. If resold, the importing company will then be reimbursed.
United States firms are strongly advised to conduct due diligence on a Mexican firm or individual before entering into any type of agreement. In Mexico’s larger cities, it is possible to hire a local consulting or law firm to obtain information about a company or individual. In addition, local chambers and associations can assist U.S. firms in locating economic reports on a particular firm.
In 2022, U.S. companies increasingly reported the introduction of criminal charges against their companies’ officials and related parties stemming from contractual or other commercial disputes. U.S. firms investing or doing business in Mexico should take care to familiarize themselves with Mexican laws and procedures that permit parallel criminal cases —largely stemming from allegations of fraud— to proceed simultaneously with relevant commercial disputes.
There are only a few private firms that conduct due diligence countrywide. The U.S. Commercial Service offers a due diligence service called an International Company Profile (ICP), which can be ordered from our domestic U.S. Export Assistance Centers or our offices in Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Mexico City. The ICP is a report in English that includes financial and commercial information on a Mexican firm, along with ownership information, reputational insights, and a report on legal actions against the firm or its owners.
Sales Service/Customer Support
Service and price are extremely important to Mexican buyers. In many industries, the decision to select a supplier depends on the demonstrated commitment to service after the sale has been made.
Mexican customers demand uniform quality, compliance with international standards, timely deliveries and, above all, reliable local service and maintenance programs. This last factor has become, in many instances, even more important than pricing or financing. Many Mexican firms employ English-speaking staff, but it is a good idea for U.S. companies to work with Spanish-speaking sales representatives. Providing appropriate training, product support, and timely supply of spare parts is critical for success. Ideally, the U.S. exporter should also host periodic visits by Mexican representatives to their headquarters. All Mexicans traveling to the United States for training or other business purposes need a visa. More information on the visa process is provided in the Business Travel section of this guide under the heading Visa Requirements.
Local Professional Services
The U.S. Commercial Service in Mexico’s Business Service Providers Directory is designed to help U.S. companies identify professional service providers to assist them in the assessment, completion, and/or financing of an export transaction.
The directory at the link above lists several business support organizations and service firms with the experience and expertise to help U.S. exporters and investors interested in Mexico. Although these lists are not comprehensive, they are a useful starting point for firms that need professional services in Mexico.
Principal Business Associations
Mexico has an extensive roster of business associations. For some general associations and function-specific associations, here is a selected list, though there are dozens more in specific sectors. Please refer to the other sections of this guide for sector and issue-specific resources.
American Chamber of Commerce (Cámara Americana de Comercio or AmCham)
Business Coordination Council (Consejo Coordinador Empresarial or CCE)
Mexican Council of Foreign Trade (Consejo Empresarial Mexicano de Comercio Exterior or COMCE)
National Chamber of the Transformation Industry (Cámara Nacional de la Industria de la Transformación or CANACINTRA)
Mexican Republic Employers Confederation (Confederación Patronal de la República Mexicana or COPARMEX)
National Association of Importers and Exporters (Asociación Nacional de Importadores y Exportadores de la República Mexicana or ANIERM)
Mexico City National Chamber of Trade, Services and Tourism (Cámara Nacional de Comercio, Servicios y Turismo de la Ciudad de México or CANACO)
Mexican Association of Accounting Firms (Asociación Mexicana de Contadores Públicos or AMCP)
Mexican Confederation of Customs Brokers (Confederación de Asociaciones de Agentes Aduanales de la República Mexicana or CAAAREM)
Mexican Association of Electrical and Electronic Communications Engineers (Asociación Mexicana de Ingenieros en Comunicaciones Eléctricas y Electrónica or AMICEE)
Mexican Association of Industrial Parks (Asociación Mexicana de Parques Industriales or AMPIP)
Mexican Association of Information Technology Industries (Asociación Mexicana de la Industria de las Tecnologías de Información or AMITI)
Mexican Association of Insurance Institutions (Asociación Mexicana de Instituciones de Seguros or AMIS)
National Chamber of Auto-Freight Transport (Cámara Nacional de Autotransporte or CANACAR)
National Chamber of Consulting Companies (Cámara Nacional de Empresas de Consultoría or CNEC)
U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce (Cámara de Comercio México-Estados Unidos or USMCOC)
Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services
Under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the Mexican market is substantially open to most all U.S. products and services. Please contact the Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) of the U.S. Embassy to learn more about any restrictions on U.S. food and agricultural commodity exports. For further details on the USMCA, visit the Office of United States Trade Representative (USTR) website.
United States investors receive national and most-favored-nation treatment when setting up operations or acquiring firms in Mexico. Exceptions exist for investments restricted under the USMCA. The United States, Canada, and Mexico have the right to settle any dispute or claim under the USMCA through international arbitration. The USMCA eliminates some barriers to investment in Mexico, such as trade balancing and domestic content requirements. Local Mexican governments must also accord national treatment to investors from USMCA countries.
Some sectors are limited to ownership or control exclusively by the Government of Mexico (GOM) or Mexican national citizens. There are 11 sectors reserved for the GOM, in whole or in part:
- Petroleum and other hydrocarbons
- Basic petrochemicals
- Planning and control of the national electric system, as well as the public services of transmission and distribution of electricity
- Generation of nuclear energy
- Radioactive materials
- Telegraphic services
- Postal service
- Bank note issuing
- Coinage and printing of money
- Control, supervision, and surveillance of ports, airports, and heliports
There are three sectors reserved for ownership or control by entities run by Mexican Nationals:
- Domestic transportation of passengers, tourism, and freight, except for messenger or package delivery services
- Development banks
- Certain professional and technical services
Additional lists with detailed USMCA updates can be found in the following links:
USMCA - Annex I Mexico (PDF)
Mexican Official Frequently Asked Questions website related to foreign investment:
For more information and help with this topic please contact:
Manuel “Manny” Velazquez
Trade Facilitation and Customs Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service —Monterrey
Tel.: +52 (81) 8047-3248