Includes the barriers (tariff and non-tariff) that U.S. companies face when exporting to this country.
Last Published: 9/18/2017
Under NAFTA, there are virtually no tariff barriers for U.S. exports to Mexico, with some exceptions as noted elsewhere.

Import Licenses
Certain sensitive products 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 following are examples of import licenses required and the Mexican Government agencies that administer the particular licenses. Note that this is not a complete list.

The Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) requires an authorization to import guns, arms, munitions, explosives, and defense equipment, as well as special military vehicles (new or used).
  • The Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (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 (SSA), through its Federal Commission for the Prevention of Sanitary Risks (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 (SEMARNAT) requires import authorizations for products made from endangered species, such as certain eggs, ivory, certain types of wood, furs, etc.
  • Toxic and hazardous products require an import authorization from an interagency commission called CICOPLAFEST which has representation from the four agencies mentioned above (SEDENA, SAGARPA, SSA, and SEMARNAT).  This list includes a large number of 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 with the use of 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 Official Gazette (Diario Oficial de la Federacion, or DOF) on January 26, 2009, abolished minimum estimated prices, also referred to as “reference prices” in all industries except for used cars.  

A number of measures regulating the 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 at: SAT Official Registry Format website

With regard to used vehicle imports, a decree issued in April 2015 included new requirements, such as:
  • A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN, or NIV);
  • Confirming that the vehicle was manufactured in the United States, Mexico or Canada;
  • The use of a customs agent (affiliated with customs house of entry of vehicle);
  • The bill of lading for permanent importation for each vehicle;
  • An invoice stamped “shipper export” by U.S. customs;
  • The RFC (the federal tax identification number), CURP (the identity number), INE (the  voter registration number);
  • Proof of address;
  • Proof of payment of IGI;
  • Compliance with standard vehicle categories; and
  • Payment of the ten percent ad-valorem tax (one percent for the border zone) based on a minimum estimated price, or “reference price”. This 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), and the one or ten percent ad-valorem tax based on a minimum estimated price, or “reference price.”  Used vehicles destined for the border zone are allowed as long as they are not older than nine years old. If they are less than ten years old, they are assessed a one percent ad-valorem tax.  Those older than ten years are subject to a ten 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 December 31, 2017 or until further notice.   
Please   refer   to   the   market   report   on   regulations   for   the   importation   of   used   vehicles   and   trucks   into   Mexico   for   further   details. Used vehicles and trucks market report

Since 2014, Mexican Customs began 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 Automatico) through the one-stop online import/export system Single Window (Ventanilla Unica, or VUCEM) at least five days before the goods arrive in Mexican customs, or shipments will face delays. Thus, U.S. exporters are advised to send all necessary paperwork related to the steel export, the Mill Test Report or the Mill Quality Certificate, as well as the commercial invoice, in advance, to the Mexican importer to avoid delays. 

In 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 (PROSEC) for the steel industry.
For more information and help with trade barriers please contact:

International Trade Administration
Enforcement and Compliance
+1(202) 482-0063
ITA Enforcement and Compliance website

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Mexico Trade Barriers