Country Listing

Mexico Table of Contents



The mid-1980s decline in world petroleum prices caused the value of Mexico's exports to fall from US$24 billion in 1984 to US$16 billion in 1986, reflecting the country's continued heavy dependence on petroleum export revenue. Lower oil earnings helped to reduce Mexico's trade surplus to almost US$5 billion in 1986. Export revenue rose slightly to US$21 billion in 1987, as oil prices began to recover. Exports continued to rise modestly but steadily thereafter, reaching US$28 billion in 1992. The government promoted exports vigorously in an effort to close a trade gap that began in 1989 and widened in subsequent years. The state-run Foreign Commerce Bank channeled finance to a wide range of potential exporters, especially small and medium-sized firms and agricultural and fishing enterprises. In 1993 it provided US$350 million for the tourist sector, representing a 35 percent increase over 1992.

The value of Mexico's exports rose steadily from US$43 billion in 1991 to US$61 billion in 1994, despite the new peso's overvaluation. The currency devaluation of late 1994 contributed to a significant jump in the value of Mexico's exports to US$80 billion in 1995, a 31 percent increase over the previous year.

Total export earnings for the first quarter of 1996 were US$22 billion. Manufactures accounted for US$67 billion (84 percent) of Mexico's exports in 1995, followed by oil exports (US$9 billion or 11 percent), agricultural products (US$4 billion, or 5 percent), and mining products (US$545 million, or less than 1 percent). This improved export performance resulted from the new peso devaluation, weak domestic demand because of the recession, new export opportunities opened by NAFTA, and improved commodity prices. Export growth was expected to slow during 1996, as a result of recovery of domestic demand, expected drops in the prices of oil and other nonfood items, capacity constraints, and strengthening of the new peso.

Composition of Exports

The 1985 peso devaluations and the 1986 oil price collapse produced a dramatic shift in the composition of Mexico's exports. The value of Mexico's oil exports plummeted from US$13 billion in 1985 to less than US$6 billion in 1986. The oil sector's share of total export revenue consequently fell from 78 percent in 1982 to 42 percent in 1987. Oil export revenue recovered in 1987 to US$7.9 billion as petroleum prices rose. Prompted by the peso devaluation and low domestic demand, nonoil exports rose 41 percent in 1986 and an additional 24 percent in 1987. In 1987 manufactured exports (especially engineering and chemical products) constituted 48 percent of total exports by value, eclipsing petroleum and reducing Mexico's vulnerability to fluctuations in the world oil price. Between 1988 and 1991, petroleum exports fell 22 percent in value because of lower world oil prices and declining sales, while nonoil exports rose 15 percent in value. By 1992 petroleum contributed only 30 percent of total exports by value.

In 1994 petroleum and its derivatives accounted for US$7 billion, or 12 percent, of Mexico's total export revenue of US$62 billion. Transport equipment and machinery exports earned US$33 billion, or 54 percent of total exports. Chemicals earned US$3 billion, or 5 percent, and metals and manufactured metal products earned US$3 billion, or 5 percent. Agricultural, processed food, beverage, and tobacco products accounted for US$3 billion, or 5 percent of total exports.

Data as of June 1996