STORY INLINE POST
Q: How did the pandemic affect your activities and how have you adapted to the changes it brought?
A: The Tijuana and Tecate Customs Brokers Association is an organization that represents 37 local customs brokers with more than 35 years of experience. We represent and facilitate foreign trade operations at customs for these 37 members. The pandemic affected us but, surprisingly, not as much as we initially thought it would. We were declared an essential sector for the continuity of the region's subsistence and food availability. Yes, there was a decrease in operations but it was not as large as expected and some operations even grew contrary to expectations. A positive impact was that we adopted some measures that previously were not present in Mexico. We also started working from home, which actually increased productivity.
Q: What does nearshoring represent for your activities?
A: Nearshoring, or "just in case," has definitely taken off as a result of the pandemic. Supply chains are preparing for any failure and I consider it as the next opportunity for Mexico to grow in foreign trade. Eighty-one percent of Mexico's trade is with the US, so our geographical position makes us very attractive. Many Asian companies are relocating their production plants here and within the next five years, we are going to see a very significant growth of facilities on the US-Mexico border to have better assurance of their supply to that chain.
Q: What challenges are Mexican customs facing to take advantage of this trend and what challenges do customs located in Tijuana face?
A: A big challenge continues to be the lack of infrastructure in the country. We need to improve communication channels, the rule of law and offer legal certainty to foreign investment. Regarding the lack of infrastructure, specifically on IT, our growth has been such that the systems are saturated. This slows down our operations.
In the specific case of Tijuana, there are also needs regarding infrastructure. Tijuana has the capacity for a greater number of offices; however, city planning has been exceeded in terms of the flow of vehicles. Every day an average of 2,600 import trucks and 2,600 export trucks pass through. The roads in the Otay area, which is where the customs office is located, are already congested and our alternative in the very near future is the Otay 2 checkpoint, although there are still about three years to go before it enters into operation.
Q: How do you work with other government agencies and stakeholders to attract more investment to Mexico?
A: One of our platforms is the training and the information that we can provide to all those companies that seek to relocate to Mexico. We are constantly providing training on foreign trade to strengthen the chain for companies and their staff.
Q: What role has regulation played in your activities?
A: The regulation has been relatively stable, which has given us space to better plan our operations and provide certainty. We have experienced growth in our operations of approximately 5%, which makes us the second-most important customs office on the northern border.
Q: An investment for an export corridor in Tijuana was recently announced. What changes will this investment bring to customs?
A: The announced investment is intended for the export lane. It is a road that was abandoned, since it is the main and only avenue through which all foreign trade merchandise leaves. It had not been given the required attention and we were informed that the municipality will invest MX$44 million for the complete rehabilitation of that road.
The state also will be rehabilitating the export alley, although which entity will be responsible for its maintenance that has not yet been defined. This is being debated between the state, the municipality and the Federation. However, we have worked together with the business coordination agencies so that the different parties involved with this road pass it into the hands of the National Customs Agency of Mexico (NAM) and remain under its administration. This will generate legal certainty about the possession of this road and the investments corresponding to that corridor can be made.
I see the saturation of roads as good problems because they derive from the growth of foreign trade. However, they require attention not only from the authorities but from all the related actors to solve it.
Agentes Aduanales Tijuana is an association of customs agents and offices that represents the interests of companies providing logistics and customs services while ensuring compliance.