China Plus One and the IMMEX

By: Bob Brewer, VP Marketing, Braumiller Law Group & Brenda Cordova, BLG Mexico Attorney

Having heard the proverbial expression of “Not putting all of one’s eggs in one basket” since I was about 7 years old, I can’t imagine laying out a marketing strategy and business expansion plan in this day and age without looking at all options, especially for the manufacturing location. If the answer is China, volatility is the key operative word that comes to mind. Production in China, and only China, is obviously a thing of the past, and not simply because for the last decade the expense of manufacturing in China has become increasingly less competitive, which demands that any company at least look at options in Asia such as Vietnam, Malaysia, The Philippines, Thailand, etc., if not Mexico. Yes, even Mexico. (Depending on how much export of the final product would be going to the U.S.)

Outside of having to file for exclusions on list #3 in Washington D.C., and hoping for the best, the strategy on the chess board with China trade forces one to look past its borders. This is not a “new” strategy by any means in conducting business, but the sheer volume of exclusion requests in D.C. regarding the tariff war gives one a broad look at how many different products are currently included, with the standard question by the USTR being a simple, “Can you absolutely not get this product manufactured in another country?”

We, Braumiller Law Group, have been successful in securing over 200 exclusion requests to date, (it’s no slam dunk) and have another 100+ waiting in stage 3 for the thumbs up, or thumbs down, decision on permission to continue manufacturing in China. The fact remains, even a “thumbs up” on an exclusion request, and a sigh of relief, would still mandate that one not want to go through this process again….and again…and again given the ever-present classification issues and rulings.

Outside of the Asian options that I have mentioned for manufacturing (instead of China)….let’s just take a hypothetical into consideration. Let’s say that 60% -70% of the products final export/distribution is to the United States. Wouldn’t it behoove one to look at the 3,200+ maquiladoras along the border of Mexico and the U.S.? There are definitive benefits tariff wise via setting up an IMMEX, as well as final distribution costs. Yes, the NAFTA/USMCA may also take a hit on increased import tariffs from Mexico into the U.S. at 5%-25% escalation, but honestly, as I write this, I can’t imagine President Trump would want to dissolve all of the progress made in the negotiations to date over immigration. I could be wrong, but in my opinion, that’s just going to hurt us both in the wallet, deeply. (Update: The President just tweeted @ 8 PM 6/7/2019 that the tariffs will not be implemented.) Whoda thunk it?

If President Trump said last week that in an effort to push Mexico to address a surge in immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border he would impose a five percent tariff on goods from that country effective June 10. If Mexico’s response is not deemed sufficient, tariffs will be increased to 10% on July 1, 15 % on Aug. 1, 20 % on Sept. 1, and 25 % on Oct. 1.

Senior Mexican officials are meeting with their U.S. counterparts at the time of this writing to seek an amicable resolution. Trump said on June 3rd “It’s more likely that the tariffs go on,” but Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard expressed confidence that “we will be able to reach an agreement.”

So, tariff escalation aside, and an agreement reached, in this rosy picture of a hypothetical of manufacturing in Mexico via the same quality standards that one had in China, and at a lesser cost, especially in exporting to the U.S., how does one go about it? That’s where our Braumiller Law Group Mexico Attorney comes in. She has worked with several companies over the years in setting up an IMMEX. The only other caveat was of course finding the right maquiladora for the manufacturing, but it can, and it has, been done, successfully.

I’ll let Brenda take it from here….what exactly is an IMMEX, and how does it benefit me?

Introduction

IMMEX stands for Maquiladora, Manufacturing and Export Services Industry.  This is a program created by the Mexican government to attract and promote foreign investment. Generally, an IMMEX, or maquiladora, can temporarily import into Mexico goods that undergo a manufacturing, transforming, and/or repairing of the industrial process for subsequent export.  The Mexican government promotes and makes this program attractive for foreign investors by offering a 100% reduction of the applicable tax and customs duties, such as the Value Added Tax (VAT), Product and Services Special Tax (IEPS), and the applicable import/export customs duties.  However, the 100% reduction and benefits do not come along with the IMMEX program authorization.  Depending on the specific good, the industry sector, the role an IMMEX plays during the manufacturing, transformation, and/or repairing process, among other factors, it may be required to obtain additional certifications, programs, and/or permits, such as the following:

1. NEEC Certification

This is the Mexican version of the United States C-TPAT, and stands for New Scheme for Certified Companies.  IMMEX may apply for a NEEC certification, and in addition to the tax and customs benefits they already receive, NEEC may allow them to perform their daily operation under a more simplified administrative process, as well as expedite the customs clearance of the goods.  Additionally, in some specific cases, when a maquiladora has filed incorrect information about its customs operations, NEEC gives them the opportunity to correct the error without penalties.  To obtain this certification, companies must show clear evidence of fiscal tax obligations met, as well as customs and security compliance, among other requirements.

2. A, AA and AAA Certification

IMMEX are now required to pay a 16%   Value Added Tax (VAT) and a 26% – 160% Product and Services Tax (IEPS) over the customs value of the goods they import into Mexico.  However, if a maquiladora obtains the A, AA or AAA certification, it may receive customs benefits, and a 100% refund/credit for the VAT and IEPS paid for its importations.  The three different  categories of certification are for those importers that accomplish and show evidence of specific administrative, legal, customs and fiscal compliance on their daily customs, business and trade operations.  Depending on the maquiladora’s level of compliance, number of employees, volume of their exports/imports, investment, shares/stocks, capital assets, among other factors, the A, AA or AAA certification may be granted.  Maquiladoras showing a higher level of compliance, and a higher volume on their operations, assets, investment, etc. can obtain the AAA certification, which provides greater advantages and benefits to the applicants.  As long as the IMMEX continues to show a qualified level of compliance, the A, AA or AAA can be renewed.

3. PROSEC

Prosec stands for Industry Sector Promotion Programs, and allows Mexican companies, including IMMEX, to import specific materials to be used for the production of specific goods.  Depending on the imported materials and the produced good, the applicable import duty can be reduced in some cases to 0%.  The Harmonized classification code of the imported materials and produced goods must be listed under the law, and must be included under specific industry sectors such as electric, electronic, furniture, toys,  mining, chemical, and wood, among others.

4. Regla Octava

This is the Rule Eight which allows companies, including IMMEX of specific industry sectors to import into Mexico parts, components, machinery, equipment and other merchandise related to their production process.  Goods imported under this rule receive a preferential import duty treatment of 0%.  IMMEX wanting to obtain this benefit must first evidence that its IMMEX and PROSEC programs are in compliance and effectively operating.  Additionally, prior to the importation, the maquiladora must request a special permit (permiso previo) with the corresponding Mexican authorities.

5. Free Trade Agreements

Free Trade Agreements may also help IMMEX reduce the applicable import/export customs duties.  This depends on the origin of the materials imported into Mexico.  One of the main agreements is NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which allows entities located in the NAFTA territory (Mexico, Canada and the United States) to import NAFTA originating materials from the territory of one NAFTA Party into the territory of another NAFTA Party at favorable duty rates.  To determine if an IMMEX can benefit from NAFTA, or any of the free trade agreements, a detailed analysis of the applicable rules of origin should be conducted.

Conclusion

In order for an IMMEX, or maquiladora, to obtain, maintain, and renew the foregoing permits, authorizations and/or certifications, which gives them access to fiscal, customs and administrative incentives and benefits, they must first show evidence of compliance within their daily operations.  The compliance requirements may vary depending on the merchandise to be imported or exported, the industry sector, the specific role the maquiladora plays during the importation, exportation, and production process, among others.  Before applying or renewing any of the above, a company must perform a critical analysis and assessment of the company’s records and operations.

If you wish to learn more about this or any other IMMEX topics, you may contact us by dialing (214) 348-9306, and we will be glad to direct you to our Mexico attorneys and trade advisors.  You may also send an email to brenda@braumillerlaw.com