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Universal Hydrogen Picks New Mexico for Major Manufacturing Hub

Universal Hydrogen Picks New Mexico for Major Manufacturing Hub

Company will hire hundreds to decarbonize aviation, other heavy transportation sectors

A company with a mission to enable carbon-free fuel and reduce the climate impact of air travel will build a and distribution center in New Mexico with a goal of hiring hundreds of employees in Albuquerque.

Universal Hydrogen has chosen a 50-acre parcel of property northeast of the passenger terminal at the Albuquerque International Sunport to manufacture and distribute its hydrogen storage modules, assemble airplane retrofit kits, perform aftermarket maintenance services, and manage administrative activities. The location includes access to a runway and the potential future reclamation of a rail spur south of the Sunport.

New Mexico will be at the heart of the company’s mission to decarbonize hard-to-abate greenhouse gas emissions in aviation, ground transportation, and heavy industry to help the United States meet the Paris Agreement goals. The company also has facilities in California, Washington State, and Toulouse, France.

“This project puts New Mexico and Universal Hydrogen at the center of the global effort to decarbonize transportation and aviation in particular,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “Hydrogen, solar, wind, and alternative energy are job-rich industries and New Mexico’s partnerships with these companies are part of a forward-thinking model to create a robust and diversified economy, while being a part of the solution when it comes to a changing climate.”

“Aviation is going to be one of the most difficult sectors of our economy to decarbonize. The clean hydrogen capsules that Universal Hydrogen plans to manufacture in Albuquerque will be central to reducing carbon pollution in air transportation — a major contributor to our climate crisis. I’m proud to welcome all of the jobs and investment that Universal Hydrogen is bringing to New Mexico,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said.

Universal Hydrogen will spend one to two years on the planning and construction of its New Mexico facilities, with a goal of commencing full-scale manufacturing by 2024. It anticipates investing over $254 million into New Mexico and aims to hire 500 employees over the next seven years. These jobs will include highly skilled engineers and composite technicians with attractive salaries and benefits. The construction project alone is expected to generate over 1,200 jobs, and the manufacturing and distribution center is expected to have an economic impact of over $700 million over the next 10 years.

“With two federal Department of Energy research labs and a skilled workforce, the future for new, innovative energy technology is here in New Mexico,” Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said. “Gov. Lujan Grisham gets it and she thinks big — New Mexico is now competing for sophisticated companies with highly paid jobs, and winning.”

Universal Hydrogen is uniquely positioned to address the hydrogen value chain for aviation, both for hydrogen fuel distribution and hydrogen-powered airplanes. The company utilizes proprietary capsules that safely store hydrogen during transit and serve as modular tanks that are loaded directly onto aircraft. The technology will underpin a logistics network that can move hydrogen from production facilities to airports over existing freight infrastructure, eliminating the need for costly new pipelines, tankers, and hydrogen storage facilities.

The company is also developing powertrain conversion kits to retrofit existing regional turboprop aircraft, including the Dash 8-300 and ATR 72, to enable these aircraft to fly on hydrogen. It thus far has agreements with 11 air carriers to retrofit nearly 100 regional airplanes with a goal of being FAA-certified and in commercial service by 2025.

After demonstrating success with regional aircraft, Universal Hydrogen plans to apply its modular fueling solution to larger commercial airplanes as well as drones, industrial equipment, and ground transportation, all domains with high-carbon footprints that will require hydrogen to meet pollution-reduction goals.

“Hydrogen is the best and only scalable solution to truly decarbonize aviation, and we want to bring it to market decades sooner than anyone thought possible — by 2025,” Jon Gordon, co-founder and general counsel for Universal Hydrogen, said.

Gordon said the company chose Albuquerque for manufacturing and distribution because of its strategic location that allows the company to leverage air, rail, and the interstate highway system as well as robust partnerships in governments, industry, and research institutions. “I can’t imagine a better place to be. We need a highly skilled workforce, and we need it immediately,” Gordon said. “We see New Mexico as a place that will give our employees an affordable, high quality of life with access to culture and the outdoors. It’s really a dream location.”

He added that both Sen. Heinrich and Gov. Lujan Grisham are rare among elected officials in fully appreciating the transformative economic effect of sustainable hydrogen, including its ability to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

“New Mexico has some of the most forward-looking political figures in the country right now as far as seeing the potential of hydrogen to transform our economy and eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels,” Gordon added. “New Mexico’s leadership will attract other companies to the region as well. That’s important to us. We want to be a significant catalyst to build this sustainability-focused ecosystem in New Mexico.”

The Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance(AREA), the area’s non-profit, private-sector economic development organization, provided technical assistance for Universal Hydrogen’s expansion. AREA first began providing site-selection services to Universal Hydrogen in early September 2021. “This investment affirms the state’s profile in aviation, manufacturing and energy, all of which are target industries of AREA’s strategic plan. We are actively working on projects in all these areas, and we expect that, with Universal Hydrogen’s announcement, we’ll only see more inquiries,” Danielle Casey, president and CEO of Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance, said.

Universal Hydrogen has been featured in Bloomberg, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times, among many others, as one of the innovative startups working to decarbonize the transportation sector. For Universal Hydrogen related media inquiries, please contact Kate Gundry at

New Mexico has taken a bold approach towards clean hydrogen development. In January, the state signed an MOU with Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories that leverages their respective areas of expertise with hydrogen to deliver timely and efficient transformation of energy systems. In February, Gov. Lujan Grisham signed an MOU with the governors of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming in announcing that they will compete jointly for a portion of the $8 billion allocated in the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for the development of regional clean hydrogen hubs.

fermented beverages U.S

Mexico’s Fermented Beverage Exports to the U.S. Skyrocket

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘U.S. – Cider, Perry, Mead And Other Fermented Beverages – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends And Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

American imports of fermented beverages, such as cider, perry and mead, recorded a twofold increase last year. In 2020, the U.S. imported 243M litres of fermented beverages worth $514M. Mexico sharply increased exports to the U.S., topping the supplier country ranking. Canada and Spain followed Mexico, also ramping up exports significantly. The U.S.’s average fermented beverage import price recorded an 11%-slump, amounting to $2.1 per litre.


American Fermented Beverage Imports

In 2020, the amount of cider, perry, mead and other fermented beverages imported into the U.S. soared to 243M litres, increasing twofold compared with 2019. In value terms, cider, perry and mead imports skyrocketed from $284M in 2019 to $514M (IndexBox estimates) in 2020.

Mexico (108M litres), Canada (56M litres) and Spain (15M litres) were the leading suppliers of cider, perry and mead imports to the U.S., with a combined 74% share of total imports.

Last year, the most notable rate of growth in terms of purchases amongst the leading suppliers was attained by Mexico. Mexican fermented beverage supplies to the U.S. increased from 1.5M litres in 2019 to 108M litres in 2020. Canada (+5.6% y-o-y) and Spain (+14.3% y-o-y) also recorded positive paces of export growth.

In value terms, Mexico ($222M) constituted the largest supplier of cider, perry and mead to the U.S., comprising 43% of total imports. The second position in the ranking was occupied by Canada ($106M), with a 21% share of total imports, and it was followed by Japan, with an 11% share.

In 2020, the average fermented beverage import price amounted to $2.1 per litre, shrinking by -11% against the previous year. There were significant differences in the average prices amongst the major supplying countries. In 2020, the country with the highest price was Japan ($9.3 per litre), while the price for fermented beverages imported from the Netherlands ($0.9 per litre) was amongst the lowest. In 2020, the UK attained the most notable growth rate in terms of prices, while the prices for the other significant supplying countries experienced more modest paces of growth.

Source: IndexBox Platform


Peru and Mexico Challenge to Dominate the $1.3B American Blueberry and Cranberry Imports

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘U.S. – Blueberries And Cranberries – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

Blueberry and cranberry imports in the U.S. remain robust thanks to strong consumer demand, even against the limitations for cafes and restaurants. Exporters from Peru and Mexico both enjoy skyrocketing growth in terms of supplies to the American market over the last five years, including 2020. Canadian and Chilean producers, as well as domestic growers, have to put on steam to benefit from future market growth.

Imports into the U.S.

Blueberry and cranberry imports to the U.S. soared to $1.4B (IndexBox estimates) in 2020. Overall, the value of imports posted solid gains, following that of the import volume.

In physical terms,  the U.S. recorded growth in supplies from abroad of blueberries and cranberries, which increased by 13% to 273K tonnes in 2020. Over the period under review, total imports indicated a strong expansion from 2012 to 2020: its volume increased at an average annual rate of +7.2% over the last eight-year period. The trend pattern, however, indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. Based on 2020 figures, imports increased by +52.6% against 2017 indices.

Over the period under review, imports reached the maximum in 2020 and are expected to retain growth in years to come. The high rate of vaccination opens the light for relief from the pandemic. Together with the increasing population and recovering incomes, it secures the demand for blueberries and cranberries will remain strong in the medium term. The American market thus becomes even more attractive for suppliers from abroad and requires the domestic growers to struggle for their market position.

Imports by Country

Peru (84K tonnes), Canada (78K tonnes) and Chile (52K tonnes) were the main suppliers of blueberry and cranberry imports to the U.S., together accounting for 79% of total imports.

From 2007 to 2020, the biggest increases were in the supplies from Peru and Mexico, thanks to skyrocketing volumes over the last five years. Purchases for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, Peru ($554M), Mexico ($364M) and Chile ($289M) appeared to be the largest blueberry and cranberry suppliers to the U.S., together comprising 88% of total imports.

Import Prices by Country

In 2020, the average blueberry and cranberry import price amounted to $5,030 per tonne, picking up by 13% against the previous year. Over the last thirteen years, it increased at an average annual rate of +1.3%. The growth pace was the most rapid in 2008 when the average import price increased by 29% against the previous year. As a result, import prices attained the peak level of $5,481 per tonne. From 2009 to 2020, the growth in terms of the average import prices failed to regain momentum.

There were significant differences in the average prices amongst the major supplying countries. In 2020, the country with the highest price was Mexico ($7,085 per tonne), while the price for Canada ($1,670 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

Source: IndexBox Platform


Mexico Faces a Slow Economic Recovery After a Steep Recession

Mexico’s economic performance deteriorated steeply in 2020 which may be largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and slow government action to curb disease spread. GDP contracted 8.5%, mainly due to steep declines in consumption and investment.

Atradius economic analysts predict Mexico’s GDP will partially rebound in 2021, increasing by 6.1%. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated an already weak economic situation. Mexico entered 2020 in a mild recession, due to fiscal tightening and falling investments on the back of rising policy uncertainty.

Government leaders face growing concern over health and economic policies

Due to the severe spread of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, the handling of the crisis by the government has drawn harsh criticism. Compared to most other countries in the region, Mexico took less stringent measures on a national level to contain the spread of the disease.

Some of the poorest countries in Latin America—including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Venezuela—were among the quickest to respond, most likely in recognition of the extremely limited capacity of their healthcare systems to deal with a protracted public health crisis.

While President López Obrador’s popularity has subsequently dropped, approval rates remain high, at about 60%. This is due to some popular measures taken since his inauguration in December 2018, such as raising the minimum wage, reducing government salaries (including his own) and advancements in several high-profile corruption cases. The president’s party thus remains well-positioned for mid-term elections in June 2021. General disillusionment with traditional parties underpin this expectation.

High crime rates and endemic corruption continue to undermine the business environment and state functions in Mexico. The economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic particularly hit workers in the informal sector, who amount to about 60% of the total labor force. Consequently, rising poverty could become a major social and political issue if government action is not taken.

Limited fiscal measures in place to counter the downturn

Mexico’s high vulnerability to the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic stems from its relatively weak healthcare system, the close synchronization of its economy with the U.S. business cycle and its relatively high dependence on the services sector. These factors make Mexico more susceptible to external shocks, especially with the stagnant tourism sector.

The 2021 outlook for most sectors in Mexico ranges from fair to bleak, with particular difficulty ahead for construction, engineering, and steel. The automobile sector, Mexico’s leading source of exports, suffered from a sharp fall in external demand and severe supply chain disruptions over the past year.

To help mitigate these impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, the central bank cut interest rates several times in 2020, to a still relatively high 4% in February 2021, while the probability of further monetary policy easing has declined. Inflation is expected to remain at the upper end of the central bank’s 2%-4% target range, mainly due to higher fuel prices and shortages from supply-side disruptions.

A protracted recovery expected in 2021

Due to meager fiscal support and comparatively high-interest rates, Mexico’s economic recovery is expected to be protracted, and GDP will likely not return to its pre-pandemic level until 2024.

Other issues include persisting economic policy uncertainty, concerns about contract enforcement and rule of law under the current government, which may continue to have a negative impact on business confidence and private investments.

Exports in the manufacturing sector should receive a boost from higher U.S. growth prospects, while an infrastructure plan may contribute to a partial recovery of investment. However, this recovery expectation remains subject to a timely containment of the pandemic, including the speed of the vaccination campaign. The government debt ratio is expected to level off in 2022 despite weaker government finances.

The peso exchange rate against the USD sharply depreciated in March 2020, which may be largely due to high capital outflows and the deterioration of the oil price. However, it appreciated again since May, and by the end of 2020, it had almost recovered its lost ground. While the exchange rate is likely to remain volatile in 2021, it is expected to continue its appreciating trend, supported by a global recovery in manufacturing.

There are glimmers of hope for Mexico’s economic recovery in 2021, aided by accelerating growth in U.S. markets on the back of massive fiscal stimulus and vaccination rollouts globally. As long as Mexico can stay on a path toward growth, a partial economic rebound could be possible in 2021.


Greetje Frankena is a deputy chief economist at Atradius based in Amsterdam.


Mexico and Peru Dominate the Rising American Asparagus Market

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘U.S. – Asparagus – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

The U.S. asparagus market rose modestly to $717M in 2019, surging by 4.1% against the previous year. This figure reflects the total revenues of producers and importers (excluding logistics costs, retail marketing costs, and retailers’ margins, which will be included in the final consumer price). The market value increased at an average annual rate of +5.9% over the period from 2013 to 2019; however, the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. Asparagus consumption peaked in 2019 and is expected to retain growth in the immediate term.

Production in the U.S.

In 2019, the production of asparagus decreased by -4.7% to 34K tonnes, falling for the second year in a row after two years of growth. Overall, production showed a relatively flat trend pattern. In value terms, asparagus production contracted to $123M in 2019. Given the relatively small production volume, the market is largely supplied by imported asparagus.

Harvested Area and Yield in the U.S.

The asparagus harvested area in the U.S. contracted to 8.3K ha in 2019, with a decrease of -5.1% compared with the previous year’s figure. In general, the harvested area continues to indicate a noticeable shrinkage.

The average yield of asparagus in the U.S. reached 4.1 tonnes per ha in 2019, remaining stable against the previous year. The yield figure increased at an average annual rate of +2.6% from 2013 to 2019; the trend pattern remained consistent, with somewhat noticeable fluctuations in certain years.

Imports into the U.S.

In 2019, imports of asparagus into the U.S. amounted to 259K tonnes, therefore, remained relatively stable against the previous year. The total import volume increased at an average annual rate of +5.6% over the period from 2013 to 2019; however, the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period.

In value terms, asparagus imports rose sharply to $761M (IndexBox estimates) in 2019. The total import value increased at an average annual rate of +7.0% over the period from 2013 to 2019.

Imports by Country

Mexico (166K tonnes) and Peru (91K tonnes) were the main suppliers of asparagus imports to the U.S., together comprising 99% of total imports.

From 2013 to 2019, the biggest increases were recorded for imports from Mexico, which increased from 96K tonnes to 166K tonnes.

In value terms, the largest asparagus suppliers to the U.S. were Mexico ($435M) and Peru ($316M), with a combined 99% share of total imports.

Import Prices by Country

In 2019, the average asparagus import price amounted to $2,931 per tonne, increasing by 5% against the previous year. Over the period from 2013 to 2019, it increased at an average annual rate of +1.3%. The growth pace was the most rapid in 2015 an increase of 22% against the previous year. As a result, import price attained the peak level of $3,378 per tonne. From 2016 to 2019, the growth in terms of the average import prices remained at a somewhat lower figure.

Average prices varied somewhat amongst the major supplying countries. In 2019, the country with the highest price was Peru ($3,458 per tonne), while the price for Mexico amounted to $2,624 per tonne.

From 2013 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by Peru.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform


How Manufacturers Save Money Through Mexico’s IMMEX Program

The IMMEX maquiladora program combined with the available VAT certification offers one of the top cost-savings benefits for companies that implement nearshore manufacturing in Mexico. It offers a 16 percent VAT tax exemption for all temporary imported materials, equipment, and tools. Manufacturers that have previously expanded operations internationally may compare this benefit to what’s normally referred to as a “free trade zone.” Although tax-wise the IMMEX program is similar, the extra advantage is that it’s not centric to any one geographical location.

When added to access to a competitive, cost-effective workforce, close proximity to the U.S., and favorable trade relations through the USMCA, an operational transition from China to Mexico is a viable option for a growing number of manufacturers. Numerous global brands across multiple sectors have already experienced success over the years through Mexico manufacturing, and the benefits continue to entice new companies to explore their options closer to home.

Working with Mexico Shelter Companies to Ensure VAT Tax Exemption

To receive tax benefits through the IMMEX maquiladora program, manufacturers can either apply and become IMMEX program approved and then get their VAT certification on their own or operate under a shelter umbrella that already has both permits in place.

The timeline of being accepted into the IMMEX maquiladora program often takes several months due to the complexity of what’s necessary to meet the criteria. Plus, if there are any discrepancies in the application and a company is denied, they must start the process again. This impacts Mexico manufacturing costs since companies can’t import any components, materials, or equipment without having their IMMEX program.

Once they have it or work with a shelter to use the shelter’s program, manufacturers are able to initiate their equipment and materials imports and start the setup process on their current Mexico facility. As you can imagine, not doing this right and as fast as possible will present delays on your project. Mexico shelter companies allow manufacturers to receive VAT tax benefits automatically when working under the shelter’s IMMEX licenses since a VAT certification is already in place.

This is in addition to other advantages, such as lower customs broker fees and the use of special compliance software that tracks the timeframe of all temporary imported materials that exempt VAT payment at customs. Companies that wish to apply for the program on their own must hire a U.S. and a Mexico customs broker, since these are the representatives that process and transmit to customs all the documentation required to move materials and finish goods
through the US / Mexico border. Also if you select this operating option, you must absorb all compliance software fees.

Additionally, once approved, a manufacturer can lose VAT certification at any time if criteria is not met at the time of renewal or during an inspection from the Ministry of the Economy. Manufacturers who partner with a shelter company often benefit from decades of expertise, experience minimizing red lights at customs, and a history of optimizing operations.

Explore Cost-Saving Solutions When Manufacturing in Mexico

The fiscal benefit of Mexico’s IMMEX maquiladora program is significant but comes with strict guidelines and great responsibility. Although starting from scratch is an option when nearshore manufacturing in Mexico, it increases costs and extends operational set up times that can lead to bigger challenges down the road.

In addition to working under a shelter’s IMMEX license, a shelter provider can create a customized cost analysis that explores additional ways to save money and get operations up and running efficiently and on schedule.

Overall, the IMMEX maquiladora program provides a good avenue for manufacturers looking to get operations up and running quickly and smoothly.


Sergio Tagliapietra has spent his entire career pioneering administrative service solutions in Mexico. He works with government in all parts of Mexico and he is one of the country’s most respected business leaders in the field. He is president and founder of IVEMSA, a full shelter services provider and partner to manufacturing companies expanding to Mexico.


NAFTA to USMCA: A Brief Overview of Significant Changes

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) became effective on July 1, 2020, 26 years after its predecessor, the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While NAFTA was originally conceived during the 1980s, the free-trade block did not materialize until the early 1990s, in part as a result of the perceived need to counterbalance the effects of the then–recently created European Union (1993). Mexico was experiencing unprecedented economic growth under the administration of President Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), an economist and the first non-lawyer elected into the Mexican presidency since 1958, while President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) was driving sustained economy growth in the United States that ultimately led to a US federal budget surplus from 1998 to 2001. Canada, on the other hand, had just elected Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (1993-2003), who had run, at least partly, on a promise to renegotiate NAFTA within six months, as he believed that the new free trade agreement negotiated by then–Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (1984-1993) made too many concessions to the Mexicans and Americans.

In contrast, the USMCA comes into effect in what undoubtedly are unprecedented times in modern history. Although there existed a consensus among member states that the tri-lateral agreement needed an update, no one could have predicted that its successor would be greeted by an economic downturn caused (or accelerated) by a crippling pandemic that has forced an almost complete shutdown of the Mexican and United States economies.

In addition, while the US-Mexico relationship appears relatively strong, the US relationship with Canada has been more strained, marked by intermittent friction between the two countries on a variety of trade-related issues, such as steel tariffs in the United States and dairy tariffs in Canada. Given this backdrop, it is hard to predict how smooth the implementation of the USMCA will be. For example, in late-July hearings in the US House, both parties’ lawmakers exacted promises from the US Trade Representative’s office that it would quickly and aggressively use the USMCA’s enforcement mechanisms, with those representatives revealing that some cases were “ready to go” and would be on file by this autumn.

The general consensus is that the USMCA achieves some notable changes and a number of incremental improvements. A full description of these changes is beyond the scope of this discussion, but the changes that will likely have the greatest impact relate to a few, select industries, and certain procedural changes, including the following:

Domestic Content Rules for Automobiles

Auto content rules were a major issue throughout the USMCA negotiations. The USMCA includes two significant changes to how cars will be made and when they can be declared as made in the United States. First, the USMCA increases to 75% (from 62.5%) the percentage of a vehicle’s parts that must be manufactured in North America. Although the 75% number has garnered most of the attention, the USMCA (as did NAFTA) actually includes different rules: Part content is divided into core, principal, and complementary parts with content requirements of 75%, 65%, and 60%, respectively. The content calculations will also be subject to the USMCA’s rules of origin, which do away with NAFTA’s tracing scheme as well as the concept of “deemed originating.” These changes will affect the automotive supply chain. For example, the USMCA introduces a new rule requiring that 70% of the total steel and aluminum used in an automobile must be sourced from North American suppliers. Combined with the elimination of the tariff shift rules for stamped products, this will require supply chain changes for a number of auto producers.

While there are broader labor rules incorporated into the USMCA, the primary focus is on the agreement’s new requirements that workers earning at least $16 per hour make 40% to 45% of a vehicle’s components.

In keeping with the findings of Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 relating to automobiles, the USMCA incorporates quotas for Canadian and Mexican auto imports. Although the quota is well above current rates, this provision likely will morph into an issue in future years.

Labor Laws

The USMCA includes an array of labor-focused provisions. One example is a requirement that the countries adopt and enforce labor laws consistent with the International Labor Organization. The signatories also agreed to effectively enforce labor laws, and not to waive or derogate from them. The USMCA also requires the countries to: (1) take measures to prohibit the importation of goods produced by forced labor; (2) address violence against workers exercising their labor rights; (3) address sex-based discrimination in the workplace; and (4) ensure that migrant workers are protected under labor laws.

The USMCA also includes an Annex on Worker Representation in Collective Bargaining in Mexico, under which Mexico commits to specific legislative actions to provide for the effective recognition of the right to collectively bargain. To fulfill this commitment, Mexico enacted historic labor reforms on May 1, 2019, and is implementing transformational changes to its labor regime, including new independent institutions for registering unions and collective bargaining agreements and new and impartial labor courts to adjudicate disputes.

The agreement also requires all businesses in Mexico to ensure that they are in compliance with all aspects of the USMCA, including the collective bargaining provisions. The United States and Mexico have established a Facility-Specific, Rapid Response Labor Mechanism (Labor Mechanism) to enforce the collective bargaining obligations through the imposition of remedies, which may include the suspension of the preferential tariff on goods manufactured by a breaching facility. The countries have already begun their appointments to these dispute-resolution bodies, and the US Trade Representative has testified that cases are already being identified for action in the fall of 2020.

Other Notable Changes

While NAFTA had no provisions relating to dairy, the USMCA increases the opportunity for dairy exports to Canada, long a contentious issue between the two countries, making the US Dairy industry a winner in the deal. As Alan Ross of Canadian law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP states “Under the new agreement, US dairy farmers receive access to about 3.5% of Canada’s $16 billion annual domestic dairy market. Operationally, Canada will provide new tariff rate quotas exclusively for the United States and eliminate certain milk price classes, changes which have proven unpopular with the Canadian dairy industry.”

Also, the USMCA (1) includes environmental obligations to, among other things, combat wildlife trafficking, address air and marine quality, and protect marine life and, as part of its environmental efforts, the USMCA provides funds for monitoring these environmental efforts; and (2) prohibits customs duties on digital products (i.e., products that are transmitted electronically, such as computer programs, videos, or music). This last issue alone merits further analysis and consideration, as digital taxes become de rigueur in Europe and elsewhere. Finally yet importantly, unlike NAFTA, the USMCA includes a sunset clause. The countries settled on a 16-year term for the deal, with a review to identify and fix problems and a chance to extend the deal after six years.

Monitoring and Enforcement

The signatories countries are to make every endeavor to arrive at a mutually satisfactory resolution of all disputes arising out of the USMCA.  However, if they are not able to reach a resolution, Chapter 31 of the USMCA provides the framework for dispute settlement. In it, the parties will first consult with technical experts in the hopes of resolving the dispute. Should that fail, a ministerial panel will review the dispute and submit a final report. If the final report finds that (1) the measure is inconsistent with a party’s obligation; (2) a party has failed to carry out its obligations under the USMCA; or (3) the measure is causing nullification or impairment of the scope, the disputing parties must try to agree on the proper resolution for the dispute within 45 days. If the disputing parties are unable to resolve the dispute within 45 days, the complaining party can suspend the responding party’s benefits of equivalent effect to the dispute.

The USMCA retains the binational panel reviews of unfair trade law matters. These include customs determinations, antidumping and countervailing duty determinations, government procurement, breach of the most-favored-nation treatment for investors (noting that Canada has opted out of the investment provision of the USMCA), and disputes involving public telecommunications services, digital trade, intellectual property, labor rights, and environmental obligations.

In a significant change from NAFTA, the investment chapter (Chapter 14) of the USMCA (1) only applies to the US and Mexico (given Canada’s withdrawal from investor-state dispute settlement regime – ISDS), and (2) narrows the circumstances under which cross-border investors can bring actions under the general rules of ISDS. For instance, the USMCA prevents many US and Mexican investors from asserting claims under the “fair and equitable treatment” standard, which is included in most international investment treaties and is a frequent basis for such claims. Exactly how this will impact cross-border activities remains to be seen.

Generally speaking, Chapter 14 provides access to international arbitration for general investments and covered government contracts subject to satisfaction of certain pre-arbitration conditions and limitations (including the exhaustion of local remedies and certain statutes of limitation). Investors (post—established investment) may seek protection for breach of national treatment and most-favored-nation treatment under the general investments protections. Further, under the government-covered contracts protections, investors in oil and gas production, telecommunications, transportation, certain infrastructure, and power generation may also be entitled to protection under the USMCA. Lastly, it should be noted that (1) the participation of Mexico and Canada in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (otherwise known as the CPTPP) will force all investors to take a fresh look at their options when seeking relief from wrongdoing by another state, and (2) the consent by Canada to ISDS for legacy investment claims will elapse three years after NAFTA’s termination.

As mentioned above, the USMCA also created the Labor Mechanism as a way to deal with labor disputes. In particular, the Labor Mechanism enables the United States and Canada to bring a dispute against a facility in Mexico that they believe is not in compliance with Mexico’s new labor laws. The Labor Mechanism permits the suspension of the preferential tariff as a remedy, the imposition of penalties on goods or services from the violating facility, or the denial of entry of goods from the violating facility.

* * *

While we remain confident that member states are invested in the growth of the North America region as a whole, and the consensus is that the USMCA does address some of the most relevant concerns of the parties to the tri-lateral agreements during the NAFTA years, it will be hard to really measure the USMCA’s true effects (whether positive or adverse) in the short and possibly mid-term given, among other things, the political and economic turmoil that has seen it take its first steps.

Global Cinnamon Market 2019 – Imports to India Grow Robustly

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘World – Cinnamon (Canella) – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

The global cinnamon market revenue amounted to $1.1B in 2018, dropping by -9% against the previous year. This figure reflects the total revenues of producers and importers (excluding logistics costs, retail marketing costs, and retailers’ margins, which will be included in the final consumer price). In general, the total market indicated a remarkable expansion from 2007 to 2018: its value increased at an average annual rate of +2.0% over the last eleven years. The trend pattern, however, indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. Based on 2018 figures, the cinnamon consumption decreased by -19.8% against 2014 indices. The pace of growth appeared the most rapid in 2010, when the market value increased by 36% y-o-y. Global cinnamon consumption peaked at $1.3B in 2014; however, from 2015 to 2018, consumption failed to regain its momentum.

Production 2007-2018

Global cinnamon production totaled 237K tonnes in 2018, going up by 4% against the previous year. The total output volume increased at an average annual rate of +1.7% from 2007 to 2018; the trend pattern remained relatively stable, with only minor fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period.

Exports 2007-2018

In 2018, approx. 145K tonnes of cinnamon (canella) were exported worldwide; declining by -18.1% against the previous year. In general, the total exports indicated a moderate increase from 2007 to 2018: its volume increased at an average annual rate of +2.2% over the last eleven year period. The trend pattern, however, indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. In value terms, cinnamon exports totaled $580M (IndexBox estimates) in 2018. Over the period under review, cinnamon exports, however, continue to indicate a remarkable expansion. The pace of growth was the most pronounced in 2011, when exports increased by 33% against the previous year. Over the period under review, global cinnamon exports reached their peak figure at $605M in 2017, and then declined slightly in the following year.

Exports by Country

In 2018, Viet Nam (44K tonnes) and Indonesia (41K tonnes) were the major exporters of cinnamon (canella) around the world, together accounting for near 59% of total exports. It was distantly followed by China (25K tonnes) and Sri Lanka (17K tonnes), together creating 29% share of total exports. The Netherlands (5.2K tonnes), Madagascar (2.7K tonnes) and the U.S. (2.3K tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders.

From 2007 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of exports, amongst the main exporting countries, was attained by Madagascar, while the other global leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the largest cinnamon markets worldwide were Sri Lanka ($191M), Indonesia ($141M) and Viet Nam ($118M), together accounting for 78% of global exports. These countries were followed by China, the Netherlands, the U.S. and Madagascar, which together accounted for a further 15%.

Export Prices by Country

The average cinnamon export price stood at $4,003 per tonne in 2018, surging by 17% against the previous year. Over the period under review, the export price indicated a remarkable increase from 2007 to 2018: its price increased at an average annual rate of +7.7% over the last eleven years. The trend pattern, however, indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. Based on 2018 figures, the cinnamon export price increased by +104.6% against 2010 indices. There were significant differences in the average export prices amongst the major exporting countries. In 2018, the country with the highest export price was Sri Lanka ($11,358 per tonne), while China ($1,843 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2007 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of export prices was attained by Indonesia, while the other global leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Imports 2007-2018

In 2018, the global cinnamon imports stood at 167K tonnes, lowering by -4.7% against the previous year.In value terms, cinnamon imports stood at $587M (IndexBox estimates) in 2018.

Imports by Country

In 2018, India (39K tonnes), distantly followed by the U.S. (20K tonnes), Mexico (11K tonnes) and the Netherlands (7.7K tonnes) were the key importers of cinnamon (canella), together making up 47% of total imports. Bangladesh (7K tonnes), Saudi Arabia (5.5K tonnes), the United Arab Emirates (4.6K tonnes), Pakistan (4.4K tonnes), Iran (3.9K tonnes), Brazil (3.2K tonnes), Germany (3K tonnes) and Viet Nam (3K tonnes) held a relatively small share of total imports.

From 2007 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of imports, amongst the main importing countries, was attained by Viet Nam, while the other global leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the largest cinnamon importing markets worldwide were Mexico ($97M), India ($84M) and the U.S. ($72M), together accounting for 43% of global imports. The Netherlands, Bangladesh, Germany, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam, Pakistan and Iran lagged somewhat behind, together accounting for a further 17%.

Import Prices by Country

The average cinnamon import price stood at $3,510 per tonne in 2018, surging by 3.6% against the previous year. Over the period under review, the import price indicated a remarkable increase from 2007 to 2018: its price increased at an average annual rate of +6.8% over the last eleven year period. The trend pattern, however, indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. Based on 2018 figures, the cinnamon import price increased by +39.1% against 2013 indices. Import prices varied noticeably by the country of destination; the country with the highest import price was Mexico ($8,610 per tonne), while Bangladesh ($1,717 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2007 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of import prices was attained by Brazil, while the other global leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform

global trade

Global Trade: 2019 Wrap-Up and 2020 Forecast

Looking back at this year, 2019 saw a multitude of global economic growth disruptors from the escalation of the trade war between the U.S. and China, to Germany’s manufacturing and automotive decline and Brexit.

Consequentially, global trade growth has almost come to a standstill, and while it’s not quite at recession levels, nearly every market and sector, as well as businesses within those sectors, have felt the impact of policies and decision making.

Even with the possibility that trade growth could rebound in 2020 to a modest 1.5%, economic policy uncertainty remains high and if it abates, it is likely only to do so to a limited extent into 2020. What factors are at play? Let’s take a look.

Trade war with China. Despite the recent conclusion of ‘phase one’ of a U.S.-China trade deal, uncertainty remains high. The underlying reason for the trade war is not resolved and is unlikely to be resolved soon either: it regards fundamental issues such as the influence of China on the global economy and theft of intellectual property. Although tensions may temporarily soften, as they seem to do now, we see no end in sight for the trade war with China and with the current administration in the White House for one more year, another rocky year is forecasted. The trade war alone is affecting no more than almost 3% of global trade — currently approximately $550 billion of goods — but it is sending a ripple effect around the globe from business investment to value chains and trade flows. If it expands to other economies in Asia and Europe, which is very possible, we could see an even more pronounced slowing in trade.

Brexit. The self-imposed economic hardship has caused much uncertainty and plummeting fixed investments in the business sector. With Boris Johnson elected to Prime Minister in the December election and Brexit a certainty come January 31, policy uncertainty has been lessened, but some will remain until a new trade relationship with the EU is shaped. While the clout of those favoring a no-deal Brexit has been diminished, a no-deal Brexit is still possible. If this occurs, it would throw chaos into supply chains across Europe.

Business insolvencies and market pressure. The U.S. is expected to lead the number of business insolvencies with a 3.9% increase in 2020, far above the global average of 2.6% expected next year. This is due to the fact that there’s been lower business investment, lower external demand (especially from China), and higher import and labor costs. Those sectors feeling the most pressure include steel, which is dealing with an overcapacity issue, automotive, and businesses dealing in aircraft, which have seen a 20% market share loss. U.S. businesses dealing in vegetable and animal products and agriculture won’t see any relief soon either, and all U.S. businesses that have typically relied on imports from China (as well as businesses in China relying on imports from the U.S.) are now facing higher costs, which are resulting in insolvencies.

Despite all the economic doom and gloom, there are a few bright spots. Indeed, the ‘phase one’ agreement between the U.S. and China provides at least hope. Moreover, the U.S. signed trade agreements with Japan, Canada, and Mexico, and a few countries, like India and China, which are pulling their weight with a 6% GDP growth rate, are providing some positive impact on the global figure as they continue to grow at rapid pace, that is to say above 5% per annum.

Further, the consumer outlook looks positive with household consumption in both North America and Europe ending on a high note, thanks to low unemployment. Unfortunately, this alone cannot support economic growth. Low-interest rates and the amount of money floating around the U.S. as well as Europe could give rise to turmoil in the markets and the economy – both pillars of global growth – and any detriment to consumer confidence could put the economy in a downward spiral, reversing the modest growth expectations set for 2020.

There is much at stake and a low likelihood of that changing for 2020. If economic and political developments continue to sour, economic growth could be hampered even more than it already is.


John Lorié is Chief Economist at Atradius Credit Insurance, having joined the company in April 2011. He is also affiliated to the University of Amsterdam as a researcher. Previously, he was Senior Vice President at ABN AMRO, where he worked for more than 20 years in a variety of roles. He started his career in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. John holds a PHD in international economics, masters’ degrees in economics (honours) and tax economics as well as a bachelor’s degree in marketing.


Sizing up the USMCA Compromise Package – How Various Industries Will be Impacted

On December 10, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Trump administration, along with leaders in Mexico and Canada, announced a compromise to the new North American trade deal, known as the U.S. Mexico and Canada Agreement.  Eleventh-hour concessions by the Administration and Mexico are likely to result in a win for labor, President Trump, and ultimately market stability.

The final deal gives Democrats in Congress a few big wins in the pharmaceutical and labor industries, as well as environmental standards, and gives President Trump the victory of having his new trade deal on the path to ratification by all countries involved. Canada managed to receive much of what they requested, despite the slight opening of the Canadian dairy market to U.S. producers.

One of the biggest changes from the original draft USMCA in the compromise trade agreement is the negotiated labor monitoring and penalties for noncompliance. While the original draft required Mexico to change its laws to make it easier for workers to unionize, the compromise created an interagency committee that will monitor Mexico’s labor reform, established benchmarks and penalties for Mexico’s labor reform process, and established labor attachés in Mexico for on-the-ground reporting about Mexico’s labor practices.

Below is an outline of the changes to the USMCA – the House is expected to vote on the deal next week, though the Senate will likely not address the bill until the impeachment process has concluded:

For workers, language was removed that made it difficult to prove that trading partners are not protecting workers from violence in their respective countries. Now, Mexico has agreed to a “rapid-response labor mechanism” (see ANNEX 31-A) that allows independent, multinational three-person panels to investigate Mexican factories. Mexico, too, can have a panel investigate factories in the U.S. If a violation of union rights is found, a complaint can be filed, and the country making the accusation can determine the period of time that the accused county can have to address the concern. Provisions against Forced Labor also remain strong in the agreement. The deal is expected to also create 176,000 new jobs in the U.S. (See Article 23.3-23.4, ‘Labor Rights.)

For the environment, Democrats have promised that the deal has an added commitment that all the countries will have seven multilateral environment agreements (MEAs), alongside language that will allow the list to grow over time. Provisions include prioritization and monitoring of MEA commitments, and maintain and strengthen the protection of endangered species, the Montreal Protocol, prevention of pollution from ships, regulation of whaling, protection of the Ozone Layer and more (Article 1.3 Amendment and Article 24.9 Amendment)

For the pharmaceutical industry, the deal’s former provision that gave biologics a 10-year exclusivity period on the market is now entirely taken out. Democrats argued against the exclusivity period, concerned it could increase the cost of drugs, and succeeded in eliminating language that allows patent evergreening – when brand-name drug manufactures extend patents an additional to maintain power in the market when a new or related drug is created. (See the deletion of Article 20.49 ‘Biologics’)

For the internet, a Democratic concession led to maintained protections in the USMCA for technology companies, giving legal immunity for content posted by their users, as well as legal protections when these companies seek to moderate platforms. These provisions remain the same from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of the USMCA.

For the steel industry, while the deal already exempted the Canada and Mexico from steel and aluminum tariffs, the revised agreement has strict rules of origin in the automotive industry. The deal states that seven years after entry into the USMCA, all steel manufacturing must occur in one or more of the countries involved, except for the refinement of steel additives. Ten years after the agreement, the countries will consider appropriate requirements in the interest of all parties for aluminum to also be considered. (See Chapter 4, ‘Rules of Origin’)

For Canada and dairy, the U.S. will be able to export 3.6% of Canada’s dairy market, currently at 1%. Dairy companies in the U.S. can sell their products into Mexico duty-free, with access to common-named cheeses, while Canada is opening its market with more duty-free quotas for U.S. dairy products. The deal eliminates Canada’s 6/7 milk pricing system, and holds Canadian export of dairy to the standards of international trade rules.

And for the auto industry, in order to avoid tariffs, a car or truck must have 75% of its components made in the U.S., Mexico or Canada, up from 62.5% today.  Also, workers making the cars or trucks, at least 30% of the work, must be earning at least $16 an hour. By 2023, that number is 40% of the work done on cars.

With the United States positioning itself to negotiate several more trade deals, labor hopes that these last-minute changes set a benchmark for labor standards and enforcement moving forward and, likewise, the President hopes it demonstrates he can close a major trade deal.


Note: Ryan Bernstein, formerly chief of staff to Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) is a senior vice president with McGuireWoods Consulting federal public affairs group.Mariam Eatedali is a research associate at McGuireWoods Consulting; she previously consulted with former representatives and senators to address foreign economic and diplomatic concerns while she was a fellow for the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress