News Article

Customs Services, Givers and Takers

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 04/24/2020 - 12:40

International trade is key for globalization and country development. Ever since Andrés Manuel López Obrador won the presidential elections back in 2018, he made it clear that he had no intention of engaging in commercial wars and that he intended to “clean” the Mexican customs system as, according to him, it is highly corrupt.

López Obrador’s administration has managed to ease more than 75 percent of the 700,000 annual procedures regarding customs, which has improved the regulatory system for the Ministry of Economy. Overall, Mexico recorded positive growth in international trade in 2019. Mexico has 19 customs points with the US border and three for the southern border. In total, there are 49 customs and their operation contribute to 31 percent of the Mexican GDP.

During a Journal of Commerce’s conference, the traffic director of Grupo Axo declared that there has been a step back to old regulatory measures which impacts the company’s loading movements. During the conference, he made several accusations saying that if the customs personnel thought that a customs agent had made a mistake, he was treated like a criminal. 

On several occasions, President López Obrador has declared that the Mexican customs system had been kidnaped by the organized crime. On a report made by Proceso, Ricardo Peralta, former General Administrator of Customs, said that at least on the southern boarder there is a big chance of illicit trade and movement, especially at the Guatemalan point. Peralta has said that there are indeed coalitions to import things like counterfeit products, drugs or even people. “How is it possible to send 40 tons of counterfeit products to Mexico? You clearly need to have someone at the access point that receives the merchandise,” said Peralta. The same thing happens with drugs, which, he says, is a very common practice in international trade networks.

In April 2019, there was a historic raid against piracy at AICM where 45 tons of clothing, footwear, jewels, bags and phone accessories were found. Peralta said that if this merch were ever to arrive and be sold in Mexico, it would have generated MX$500 million (US$20.1 million) in earnings.

It was in August 2019 that President López Obrador appointed the new head of the General Administration of Customs, Ricardo Ahued, to take on the task of cleansing the customs services. Yesterday, April 23, Ahued resigned after declaring that he has tried to complete this task. López Obrador said that immoral actions are a habit in customs, which is why it has been a challenge to break the mafia.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst