Mexico: An Important Agricultural Trading Partner


The American Agricultural Economics Association held its annual conference in Atlanta last week. I attended one session that included several studies related to NAFTA and the USMCA, and I was struck by how much the value of agricultural imports from Mexico has risen since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994. Increasing imports of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are high value crops, and beer are largely responsible for this rise (see Figure 1). 

As trade deals are renegotiated, it is important to remember that Mexico is an important trading partner in U.S. agriculture. According to a recent USDA report, Mexico is the United States’ largest agricultural trading partner in terms of combined exports and imports. Mexico received 13.6 percent of U.S. agricultural exports in 2018 and supplied 20.1 percent of U.S. agricultural imports.

Agricultural exports to Mexico have risen steadily since the implementation of NAFTA (see Figure 2). Figure 3 shows that much of the growth in agricultural exports to Mexico can be attributed to corn exports, but Mexico also provides a critical export market for Montana agricultural producers. Figure 3 shows that the value of beef exports to Mexico grew steadily through the 1990s, peaked in 2006, and have remained relatively steady in the subsequent years. The value of wheat exports to Mexico peaked in 2012 and have declined somewhat since then. 

Figure 4 shows the relative shares of various agricultural products exported to Mexico in 2018. Corn and soybeans are a large share of the value of agricultural exports. Dairy, pork, beef, and poultry also make up a large share  of the exports to Mexico. These figures suggest that future trade with Mexico will remain an important interest to agricultural producers in the Northern Great Plains.

Figures created from data collected by the United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service. 


About Author

Diane Charlton

Diane Charlton is an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University. She received her Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of California, Davis. She has done research on agricultural labor markets in Mexico and the United States along with researching the determinants of migration. She never tires of talking about agriculture with her sister and brother-in-law from their almond orchard in the Central Valley of California, and she is looking forward to learning more about and researching agricultural production in Montana and the northern Great Plains.

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