International trade plays a significant role in Mexico's economy. The country boasts major, active trading partnerships with more than 50 countries through free trade agreements that extend trade benefits across the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Mexico has also created a business environment that encourages foreign investment, driving economic growth and cross-border shipments. In 2021, this combination of factors helped Mexico to secure its spot as the 15th largest economy in the world in terms of GDP and 12th in terms of total exports.
Mexico’s largest trade partner by far is the United States. In 2021, manufacturing facilities in Mexico exported $361 billion USD in goods across its northern border. Other major recipients of Mexico’s exported goods include Canada ($17.4 billion), China ($9.82 billion), and Germany ($7.63 billion).
So, what makes up the largest portion of the goods coming out of Mexico? Below, we dive into Mexico’s main exports to help companies like yours understand how they might fit in Mexico’s export ecosystem.
What Are Mexico's Largest Exports?
Mexico has spent decades strengthening its automotive manufacturing sector, so it’s perhaps no surprise that cars (9%), delivery trucks (6%), and automotive components (7%) together make up the country’s largest category of exports.
While companies like Ford Motor Co. and General Motors can trace their history in Mexico back decades, the 21
Some of this growth can be attributed to U.S. requirements for North American content in traditional and electric vehicles. The USMCA provides trade benefits to automotive manufacturers that can trace 75% of their auto content’s origins to North America. More recently, incentives for electric vehicles made in the Americas are pushing even further investment into Mexico, including plans for a Tesla gigafactory in Monterrey. This show of force has led to the creation of a dense supplier network that stretches across northern and central Mexico. All told, the automotive sector makes up 20 percent of the country’s manufacturing GDP.
Once, China was the sole source of computer products. However, as more companies look to diversify their global footprint, more manufacturers are shifting production of essential electronics to Mexico. In fact, Mexico has become the second leading exporter of computers. Today, computers make up nearly 7% of Mexico’s exports, a total of $30 billion.
Manufacturers include Lenovo, Iventec, Samsung, LG Electronics, and Panasonic. In recent years, many companies based in Taiwan, long a world leader in semiconductor chip production, have moved to expand production in Mexico to serve better North American demand for computers, smart devices, and related components. Those manufacturers include Foxconn Technology, which manufactures servers in several Mexico locations; Pegatron, which has expanded into Ciudad Juarez to produce computers for electric vehicles; and Iventec, which produces tablets, computers, and workstations.
Countless more companies in Mexico produce the circuitry and components powering computers and related products, inducing intelligent televisions and the computers powering today’s vehicles. Ninety-four percent of these computers are ultimately exported to the United States.
3. Oil and petrochemical products
Mexico has long been one of the largest oil producers in the world, but its oil and petrochemical industry is on the verge of transformation.
Oil has accounted for about 16% of the country’s economy, making Mexico the 12th largest country in terms of crude oil production, 21st in crude oil reserves, and 16th in refined capacity. In 2021, the country produced 1.9 million barrels each day and exported $20.3 billion in crude petroleum. Approximately 212 million of those barrels of heavy crude went to the United States, in some cases returning as refined petroleum. Other major destinations included Chinese Taipei, Spain, India, and South Korea. Now, Mexico is exploring the potential of reining in those exports in order to strengthen its own petroleum and petrochemical production.
In 2021, Mexico’s chemical exports totaled nearly $12 billion. Now, as Mexico’s chemical industry grows with this new energy, manufacturers will be looking to build new value pools and opportunities for integration with other partners in the chemical chain.
Mexico is the largest producer of silver in the world, and it exported nearly $3 billion in this precious metal in 2021. It is also a leading producer of gold, copper, and zinc. Other minerals sourced from Mexico include mercury, manganese, cadmium, antimony, and iron. S&P Global reports that Mexico’s production of many of these essential minerals has risen in recent years as the U.S. seeks to source more critical minerals from Mexico over China.
Many of the minerals Mexico produces play essential roles in manufacturing. For example, bismuth is used in the production of pharmaceutical ingredients, while graphite is a component in semiconductor manufacturing. In the long term, Mexico is developing a state-owned company to mine lithium, another essential component for the production of semiconductors. In time, this is expected to incentive battery and end-use product manufacturers to expand production in Mexico to support the U.S. market.
5. Food and beverages
In 2021, Mexico was the world's largest exporter of beer, at a value of $5.49 billion. It was also the world’s largest exporter of tropical fruits ($3.8 billion), from melons and mangoes to strawberries, bananas, and limes.
The country was also a leading exporter of vegetables ($3.25 billion), most notably tomatoes ($2.57 billion). Mexico produced 3.87 million metric tons of fresh tomatoes in 2023. It attributes this increase to the greater use of greenhouse technologies adopted to feed the U.S. demand for fresh tomatoes. In 2023, the country exported 2.06 million metric tons of tomatoes. Overlapping growing seasons have fueled the growth of these agricultural goods from a number of states.
Exporting from Mexico benefits everyone
The power of exports has helped boost the economy of Mexico enormously. A combination of abundant natural resources, strong infrastructure, and the accumulation of trade deals with nations across the world make Mexico a popular option for both investors and businesses.
This is a trend that shows no sign of slowing any time soon. On the contrary, an increasing number of businesses are choosing to move to Mexico to enjoy these benefits, which means these exports are likely to benefit the Mexican economy for many years to come.
If you want to make a move to Mexico to support these strong industries, Tetakawi can help. We provide manufacturers with the support they need to get started – as well as Import & Export Administration services that simplify the process of moving goods across the border. To learn more, contact us today.