Includes the barriers (tariff and non-tariff) that U.S. companies face when exporting to this country.
Last Published: 10/17/2019

Under NAFTA, there are virtually no tariff barriers for U.S. exports to Mexico, with some exceptions as noted elsewhere.
On May 17, 2019, the United States announced an agreement with Canada and Mexico to remove the Section 232 tariffs for steel and aluminum imports from those countries and for the removal of all retaliatory tariffs imposed on American goods by Canada and Mexico. The agreement provides for aggressive monitoring and a mechanism to prevent surges in imports of steel and aluminum. If surges in imports of specific steel and aluminum products occur, the United States may re-impose Section 232 tariffs on those products. Any retaliation by Canada and Mexico would then be limited to steel and aluminum products.

Import Licenses

[This section deals with licenses for sensitive products. For general import requirements, see the section Import Requirements & Documentation and the section on Prohibited & Restricted Imports.]

Certain sensitive products entering Mexico must obtain an import license, for which the difficulty varies according to the nature of the product. Periodically, the Mexican Government publishes lists that identify the different items that have a specific import control. Items are identified according to their Harmonized System (HS) code number; therefore, it is important that U.S. exporters have their products correctly classified. U.S. exporters are encouraged to check with customs brokers as to the accurate classification of their products.
  • The Secretariat of National Defense (Secretaría de Defensa Nacional or SEDENA) requires an authorization to import guns, arms, munitions, explosives, and defense equipment, as well as special military vehicles (new or used). This would be in addition to the export license required by U.S. export controls.
  • The Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación or SAGARPA) requires the Hoja de Requisitos Zoo-Sanitarios, which acts as an import permit prior to import authorization for some leather and fur products, and fresh/chilled and frozen meat. Agricultural machinery does not require approval from SAGARPA.
  • The Secretariat of Health (Secretaría de Salud or SSA), through its Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks (Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios or COFEPRIS), requires either an “advance sanitary import authorization” or “notification of sanitary import" for medical products and equipment, pharmaceuticals, diagnostic products, toiletries, processed food, and certain chemicals. Food supplements and herbal products are highly regulated in Mexico, unlike in the United States.
  • The Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales or SEMARNAT) requires import authorizations for products made from endangered species, such as certain eggs, ivory, certain types of wood, and furs.
  • Toxic and hazardous products require an import authorization from an interagency commission called CICOPLAFEST (Comisión Intersecretarial para el Control del Proceso y Uso de Plaguicidas, Fertilizantes y Sustancias Tóxicas or the Intersecretarial Commission for Process Control and Use of Pesticides, Fertilizers, and Toxic Substances) which has representation from the four agencies mentioned above (SEDENA, SAGARPA, SSA, and SEMARNAT). This list includes many organic and inorganic chemicals.
Commercial samples of controlled products shipped by courier are also subject to these regulations. Liquid, gas, and powdered products cannot be shipped by courier, even in small quantities. Instead, these products must be shipped as a regular shipment by a customs broker. Some special treatment may apply in the case of samples intended for research, product registration, or certification. Unless returned at the sender's expense, Customs often confiscates or destroys samples lacking the proper documentation.

A resolution published in the DOF on January 26, 2009, abolished minimum estimated prices, also referred to as “reference prices” in all industries except for used cars and textiles.
Several measures regulating Mexican textile importers also collaterally affect other U.S. exporters. These measures include an importer registry, the establishment of reference prices (though they should not be applied to products coming in under a NAFTA Certificate of Origin), and a five-day waiting period for all imports.

Importers of textiles and apparel products must be registered in the Official Registry No.11 for textile/apparel sector. The instructions to register can be found in the Guide to Textile Sector Production.

Used Vehicles

Regarding used vehicle imports, a decree issued in April 2015 included new requirements, such as the following:
  • A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN, or NIV) along with a visible digital picture
  • Confirmation that the vehicle was manufactured in the United States, Mexico, or Canada
  • The use of a customs agent affiliated with the customs house of entry of the vehicle
  • The bill of lading for permanent importation for each vehicle
  • An invoice stamped “shipper export” by U.S. Customs
  • The RFC (the Mexican federal tax identification number), CURP (the identity number), and INE (the voter registration number) of the importer
  • Proof of address of the Mexican importer including postal code
  • Proof of payment of the IGI (Impuesto General de Importación or General Import Tax)
  • Compliance with Mexican standard vehicle categories
  • Payment of the 10 percent ad-valorem tax (one percent for the border zone) based on a minimum estimated price or “reference price”
This estimated reference price is determined based on the vehicle’s year, make, and model. Importers of used vehicles must post a guarantee or bond representing the difference between the duties and taxes if the declared customs value is less than the established reference price. The importer must show payment of the IVA (16 percent value-added tax), the ISAN (vehicle’s acquisition tax) listed in the bill of lading, and the one or 10 percent ad-valorem tax based on the minimum estimated price. Used vehicles destined for the border zone are allowed if they are not older than nine years old. If they are less than 10 years old, they are assessed a one percent ad-valorem tax. Those older than 10 years are subject to a 10 percent ad-valorem tax. Used vehicles aged five to nine years old are permitted in the rest of Mexico for resale. Used vehicles which are prohibited from circulating in their own country of origin cannot be imported into Mexico. These requirements and regulations are in effect through March 31, 2019, or until further notice.

Please refer to our U.S. Commercial Service Mexico City Market Report on Regulations for the Importation of Used Vehicles and Trucks for further details.


Since 2014, Mexican Customs has been requiring more information on steel products in their effort to process legitimate shipments of steel from the United States. Mexican importers are now required to present detailed material information prior to the shipment’s arrival in customs.
U.S. exporters should provide their Mexican client with either a mill test report or a material quality certificate from the steel mill from which the raw material was sourced. This is independent of whether the products are secondary or tertiary (i.e., screws made of steel bar are tertiary since the bar itself is a secondary product from the mill). Tertiary producers must request the test report from their secondary producers who in turn get the report from the mill.
It is the Mexican importer’s responsibility to issue their automatic notification (aviso automático) through the one-stop online import/export system single window (ventanilla única, or VUCEM) at least five days before the goods arrive in Mexican customs, or shipments will face delays. Thus, to avoid delays we advise U.S. exporters to send to the Mexican importer in advance all necessary paperwork related to the steel export, the mill test report, or the mill quality certificate, as well as the commercial invoice.
On January 2017, due to changes in Mexican customs law, Mexican importers—in addition to being an authorized entity to import—must be registered in the Sectoral Promotion Programs (Programas de Promoción Sectorial or PROSEC) for the steel industry.

Trade Barrier Contacts

For more information and help with trade barriers please contact:
Braeden Young
Standards Attaché
U.S. Commercial Service—Mexico City
Tel.: +52 (55) 5080-2182

Sylvia Montaño
Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service—Mexico City
Tel.: +52 (55) 5080-2000 ext. 5219

International Trade Administration
Enforcement and Compliance
Tel.: +1(202) 482-0063

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