The partnership between Australia and Mexico is strong and growing. Both countries work closely together in multilateral forums such as APEC, the G20, MIKTA, the World Trade Organization, and within the United Nations. Australia is negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with Mexico as a member of the Pacific Alliance (Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru) and Mexico has also been party to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
There is a comprehensive framework of bilateral agreements which support increased cooperation between Australia and Mexico, including a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Education, Research and Vocational Education and Training (2015), an MOU on Cooperation in Agriculture (2010), an MOU on Mining (2010), an MOU on Political Consultations (2009), and an MOU on Energy (2005).
The United Mexican States is the world’s fourteenth largest country with a land area slightly larger than Queensland and Victoria combined. Its climate varies from tropical to desert and the terrain includes high rugged mountains, low coastal plains, high plateaus and desert. Almost all of Mexico is on the North American plate, with the Pacific Ocean on the West coast and the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea to the East. It borders with the United States of America to the North and Guatemala and Belize to the South-East. The name Mexico was derived from the country’s capital Mexico City, which was founded on top of the Aztec capital Mexico-Tenochtitlan, a word of unknown meaning from the Indigenous Nahuatl language.
Mexico’s population is approximately 122.3 million (2016). Most Mexicans are of mixed Indigenous and Spanish descent, with around 30 per cent of the population of predominantly Indigenous descent. Catholicism is the main religion. Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world.
System of Government
Mexico is a congressional democracy with a directly elected President. The President serves a six-year term and cannot be re-elected. The bicameral Congress comprises 128 Senators, each serving a six-year term, and 500 members in the Chamber of Deputies, serving a three-year term.
In 2000, the political hegemony of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which had endured in Mexico for 71 years, was broken by the election of President Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN). During six years in office, Fox's government pursued macroeconomic goals focused on increasing investment and employment. Sound fiscal management promoted economic growth and moved Mexico out of recession.
The 2006 election of Felipe Calderón of the PAN as President continued Fox's economic liberalisation and stable macroeconomic policies. Calderón sought to enhance national security through police and judicial reform and confronting organised crime. In the six years of his presidency there were some successes in addressing security concerns but also a high death toll associated with organised crime (estimated at over 60,000), with violence spreading beyond the US-border towns to some of Mexico's biggest cities, such as Monterrey. President Calderón presided over continuing economic stability, implementation of universal health coverage and some improvements to education.
Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI won the July 2012 elections and was inaugurated as President in December 2012. He identified five key goals for his presidency: improving security and justice; combatting poverty; providing quality education for all; maintaining solid economic growth; and re-positioning Mexico in the world, with a focus on enhancing ties with the Asia-Pacific region. Peña Nieto set out his agenda for meeting these goals in the cross-party “Pact for Mexico” (Pacto por México) which outlined a very ambitious and wide-ranging program of structural and regulatory reforms (95 in total) in sectors including education, energy, fiscal policy, internal security, telecommunications and politics. Having passed legislation for major reforms in the education, telecommunications and energy sectors, as well as fiscal and political-electoral reforms, the Mexican Government is now focused on implementing these reforms.
Drug-related violence, organised crime and high levels of poverty remain intractable challenges for the Peña Nieto administration. Corruption is also an issue the administration is trying to address. Country-wide protests followed the disappearance and apparent murder of 43 students from Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero in September 2014 and Mexicans continue to see insecurity as a key barrier to the country's development.
Mexico’s relationship with its northern neighbour and most important trading partner, the United States, has traditionally dominated its foreign policy. However, Mexico is now focusing beyond its immediate neighbourhood, including to the Asia-Pacific.
Since gaining office, President Peña Nieto’s administration has actively pursued its four key foreign policy goals: to consolidate Mexico’s presence on the world stage; to strengthen development-oriented international cooperation; to promote Mexico through a worldwide campaign; and to promote the interests of the country and its citizens abroad.
Bilaterally, President Peña Nieto has been active in building international ties, including by undertaking a number of international official visits and receiving a large number of overseas visitors. President Peña Nieto has been applauded internationally for Mexico’s ambitious economic reform agenda.
Mexico is also active multilaterally, on issues such as climate change, development and disarmament.
Australia has a strong bilateral relationship with Mexico. In addition to our shared membership of organisations such as the United Nations, G20 and APEC; Australia and Mexico are both members of MIKTA, an innovative partnership between Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia which provides regular opportunities to enhance cooperation on global issues.
In 2014, the Council for Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR) supported the inaugural Australia-Mexico Second Track Dialogue at the ANU’s Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies (ANCLAS). The Dialogue brought together senior representatives from government, business, academia and the media to discuss the future of the relationship.
Australia’s Embassy in Mexico City is responsible for relations with Mexico. Australia opened a Consulate headed by an Honorary Consul in Cancún in 2014, with jurisdiction in the states of Yucatán and Quintana Roo. Mexico maintains an Embassy in Canberra and a Consulate headed by an Honorary Consul in Melbourne. Mexico established a Defence Attaché presence in its Canberra Embassy in 2014, and opened a ProMéxico trade office in Canberra in 2015.
People to people links
Over 3,000 Mexican-born persons live in Australia, around half of whom are recent arrivals. While numbers are small, they are climbing rapidly with an 80 per cent increase between the 2006 and 2011 censuses. More information can be found at the Department of Social Services’ Community Information Summary page.
In 2016, almost 85 000 Australians travelled to Mexico and around 8,800 Mexicans visited Australia.
Between 2007-2017, 50 Mexicans accepted Endeavour scholarships or fellowships to undertake study, research or professional development in Australia. For more information see the Department of Education and Training’s Endeavour Awards page.
From 2010 to 2014, Australia provided $100 million in development assistance to Latin America, including 250 Australia Awards scholarships. Under this program, 20 Australia Awards fellowships and 30 Australia Awards scholarships were awarded to Mexican students. The regional program has now closed, though some activities which have already been funded will continue until 2017.
The Australian Embassy in Mexico City funds projects each year through the Direct Aid Program (DAP), a flexible small grants program funded from Australia’s aid budget and managed through 66 of DFAT’s overseas posts.
According to the World Bank, Mexico's economy was ranked 15th in the world in 2016 (only Brazil has a larger GDP among Latin American countries). It is currently one of only two Latin American members of the OECD (the other is Chile). Mexico is also one of the WTO members with the greatest number of Free Trade Agreements (it currently has a network of 12 FTAs with 46 countries).
The interconnectedness of the Mexican and US economies is well known, stimulated by the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which groups Canada, the US and Mexico. The economic integration is derived from close linkages across four important economic channels: trade, remittances, investment, and financial channels. The trade channel is especially well developed, with around 80 per cent of all Mexican exports destined for sale in the US domestic market.
Mexico slipped into a steep recession in 2009 as a result of the global economic crisis and an outbreak of swine flu in April of that year. The economy recovered from a 4.7 per cent contraction in 2009, achieving 5.1 per cent growth in 2010. Mexico’s economy grew by 2.6 per cent in 2015 and by 2.3 per cent in 2016. Growth projections for 2017 have been revised downwards to between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent.
Mexico can attribute its transformation from a highly protected economy to its more open, regionalised and market-based economy of today to widespread trade liberalisation over the past several decades. This has encouraged foreign firms to set up plants to take advantage of relatively low labour costs and proximity to the US market. Economic activity is increasingly dominated by the private sector, but is characterised by a mixture of modern, export-oriented industry and agriculture, alongside more outmoded sections of the domestic economy.
Much of Mexico's modern economy has been driven by competition and export opportunities stemming from Mexico's extensive network of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), covering more than 90 per cent of the country's trade. They include FTAs with Chile, the United States and Canada (NAFTA), the European Union; Israel; Colombia; Bolivia; Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras; Uruguay; the European Free Trade Area (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein), Peru, Japan and Panama. Mexico is also a founding member of the outward-looking and Asia-oriented Pacific Alliance, a trade liberalising pact between Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. In 2017, Australia launched Free Trade Agreement negotiations with Mexico as a member of the Pacific Alliance.
For detailed information on Australia and Mexico's bilateral economic and trade relationship, see our Mexico Fact Sheet [PDF 111 KB]
Trade and Investment
Mexico is a significant regional power and a key economy in Latin America. Its size and geographical proximity to the world's largest economy, the United States, and very good links to markets in Central and South America, make it an attractive trading partner for Australia. Given complementary economic and trade profiles, there are strong prospects for expanding Australia-Mexico trade and investment.
Mexico was Australia's largest merchandise trading partner in Latin America in 2016, with two-way trade in goods and services worth over $3 billion. Australia's merchandise exports to Mexico were $464 million, dominated by coal. Other major exports included meat (excluding beef), aluminium, and other ores and concentrates. Trade in services is growing, with trade in Australian education and training services especially strong and student numbers continuing to grow. Mexico is Australia's fourth largest education and training market in Latin America. In 2016, there were 2,672 Mexican student enrolments in Australian educational institutions, most pursuing higher education. Australian food and wine brands are increasingly on sale in Mexico. The stock of Australian investment in Mexico has expanded rapidly, from $200 million in 2010 to around $6 billion in 2017.
Goods imports from Mexico have increased significantly over the last decade and were valued at $2.5 billion in 2016. The major imports from Mexico were telecom equipment and parts, medical instruments, alcoholic beverages, and other ores and concentrates. Mexican investment in Australia has largely been concentrated in private real estate and manufacturing, although one of Mexico's largest food companies, tortilla manufacturer Gruma, has its factory Mission Foods located in Victoria.
A Double Taxation Agreement entered into force from 1 January 2004, which clarifies the taxation rights of the two countries and introduces measures to relieve double taxation and prevent fiscal evasion. The Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) between Australia and Mexico, signed in Mexico City on 23 August 2005, entered into force on 21 July 2007.
A bilateral Air Services Agreement was signed on 9 April 2010. In July 2013, Virgin Australia expanded its partnership arrangements with Delta Airlines (US) to add six Mexican cities to its destinations. Qantas also has codeshares into Mexico with American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.
Reforms to Mexico’s energy sector, ending state-owned oil giant Pemex’s decades-old monopoly over oil and gas and liberalising the electricity sector, offer significant opportunities for Australian companies. For example, in December 2016, BHP won a bid to partner with Pemex to explore the Trion oilfields in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico. Expansion of mining-related services also offers strong potential for future growth. The relationship has grown as Australian companies in a range of industries (mining services and technology, agribusiness, food and beverages, IT, software, biotechnology, automotive parts and education and professional services) enjoy success in Mexico. There is potential for new areas such as water management equipment and services, clean technology and environmental services including clean energy.
Mexico attracts significant foreign direct investment due to NAFTA membership and its generally liberal investment laws. The investment environment has improved markedly over the last several decades as a result of domestic reform and the introduction of more simplified procedures, higher ceilings on foreign equity and greater intellectual property protections.
Australian investment in Mexico is significant and growing. Over 100 Australian companies are currently operating in Mexico. For example, Macquarie Group has over $3 billion in assets under management in Mexico. It is the second largest owner of industrial real-estate and manages telecommunication, toll road, energy and education assets. Other sectors attracting Australian investment include mining services, consolidated services (linked to finance and leasing arrangements) and manufacturing.
The Australian Government is working actively to promote and facilitate bilateral trade. The Australian Embassy and Austrade work closely with Australian companies in a range of sectors to help enhance new market opportunities in Mexico. Promotional events are conducted regularly to boost sales of Australian food and wine, education, tourism and mining technology and services. In most sectors, Australian exporters face competition from other sources that benefit from significantly lower tariffs, due to Mexico's existing free trade agreements. However, Mexican companies are continually looking at diversifying their trade relationship and doing business with Australia is now a viable option for many. In addition, the Australian Government devotes considerable effort to improving the regulatory environment for Australian exporters and investors and in assisting Australian exporters to resolve market access issues as they arise.
Australian capability is well-placed to benefit from Mexico's rapidly increasing energy requirements. Reforms to the energy sector in Mexico are opening up new opportunities in oil and gas, and there are growing opportunities in renewable energy. Australia is also a continuing supplier of thermal coal to Mexico.
Food and Agriculture
Opportunity exists for Australian investment in Mexico's food processing sector and for wider engagement on agriculture. There is considerable potential to increase export volumes out of Australia. Australian wine is also well positioned to increase sales among Mexico's growing middle class and the number of Australian wine brands available in Mexico continues to rise. Australian agricultural technologies and services also have potential in the Mexican market.
Construction and engineering account for some 4 per cent of Mexican GDP. New investment in highways, utilities and resorts make Mexico a very attractive potential market for the Australian building, construction and engineering industries. Australian companies are already enjoying success in supplying high-end building products, water treatment technology and a range of services.
Mexico is the world's largest producer of silver, second in fluorite and bismuth, third in celestine and among the top ten producers globally of 13 other minerals. Mexico has a long history of mining and has an attractive regulatory regime and business environment for foreign investment and participation in the sector. A number of Australian technology and services exporters are active in Mexico’s mining sector. Two of the major Mexican players (Grupo Mexico and Luismin) have mining investments in Australia. The Australian Embassy in Mexico has worked closely with the Mexican Government and the private sector to promote greater trade and investment in the sector.
Mexico has large tracts of highly prospective but under-explored land, which offer good opportunities for Australian exploration and Australian mining equipment, technology and services (METS) companies. There have been a number of significant discoveries in recent years including gold, silver and uranium. METS companies are under-represented in the Mexican market, and Austrade works with individual companies and maintains a presence at important sectoral events, such as ExpoMin Mexico, to promote Australian expertise to potential Mexican customers.
Education and Training
There are excellent prospects for expanding Australia's education and training relationship with Mexico. Mexico is Australia's fourth largest education and training market in Latin America, after Brazil, Colombia and Chile, with a 13 per cent increase in enrolments of Mexican students from 2015 to 2016. Increased demand for training to improve productivity and skills is also expected to provide new opportunities for Australia's vocational education and training sector (VET). Australian education services are well regarded in Mexico and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Austrade continue to promote Australia as a quality provider of education services.
Market opportunities exist for Australian businesses providing services linked to productivity and efficiency gains across the major industry sectors (energy, mining, construction, agriculture and food processing). The growth of Mexico's middle-class also presents an opportunity for expansion in tourism, financial and professional services and franchising. Australia now has some eight active franchises in the Mexican market.
Information on doing business and opportunities in Mexico
High level visits
May 2017: Minister for International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells attended the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Mexico.
August 2016: Governor General Peter Cosgrove undertook a State Visit to Mexico.
November 2014: Mexican President Peña Nieto, then Foreign Minister Meade and Minister for the Economy Guajardo visited Australia for the G20 Summit.
July 2014: Mexican Minister for the Economy Guajardo visited Australia for the G20 Trade Ministers’ meeting.
April 2014: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visited Mexico for a MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, Australia) Foreign Ministers meeting, the first high level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, and bilateral meetings.
June 2012: Then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, then Minister for Trade Craig Emerson and then Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd visited Mexico during its hosting of the G20.
February 2012: Then Mexican Minister for the Economy Ferrari visited Australia for Joint Trade and Investment Commission (JTIC) discussions with then Minister for Trade Craig Emerson.
September 2011: Then Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd visited Mexico and signed an Action Plan which provided a framework for strengthening cooperation in key areas of mutual interest.
April 2010: Then Trade Minister Simon Crean visited Mexico where he and then Minister for the Economy Ruiz, convened a meeting of the JTIC.
November 2008: Then Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith visited Mexico and signed an MOU on Education to deepen educational ties between the two countries.
September 2007: Then President Calderón visited Australia for the APEC Summit underscoring our mutual interest to strengthen bilateral trade, investment, political and people-to-people links.