Mexico is US’s third largest trading partner and was the second largest supplier of imported goods in 2016. Perhaps the question should be what doesn’t the US import from Mexico, rather than what does the US import from Mexico. As the primary destination of Mexican exports, the United States ranks first in Mexico trading partners. What does Mexico export? Products range from autos and auto parts to fresh produce, with 2016 exports to the United States totaling $317.7 billion.
What Does the US Import from Mexico? Part I: The Goods
What products does Mexico produce? Vehicles and vehicle parts were the top US imports from Mexico in 2016, totaling $75 billion. Electrical machinery, including televisions, monitors and electrical generators account for another $62 billion. Other types of machinery were a close third, totaling $51 billion. Optical and medical instruments and furniture and bedding close out the top five, bringing Mexico $13 billion and $11 billion respectively.
Mexico is the largest importer of agricultural products into the United States. Agricultural imports, which include fresh vegetables and fruit, wine and beer, snack foods and processed fruits and vegetables, totaled $23 billion in imports from Mexico in 2016. Fresh fruit and vegetables account for nearly half of this total.
What Does the US Import from Mexico? Part II: The Why
The United States benefits from US imports from Mexico for three reasons: cheap labor, trade agreements and proximity. Inexpensive labor is chief amongst these. For example, automakers pay Mexican workers an average of $8 USD per hour. While this is many times greater than the Mexican minimum wage of ~$4.50 USD per day, it is much less than an American worker could expect.
Trade agreements, most notably the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which eliminated all tariffs between Mexico, Canada and the United States, have made importing both goods and services from Mexico economically profitable. Proximity allows goods to be shipped without great expense. These advantages make it clear why Mexico is one of our top trade partners.