Charting the COVID pandemic effects on international trade
US-Mexico cross-border trade via Mexico customs bill of lading data
Mexico customs bill of lading (BOL) data allows us to track US-Mexico cross-border trade using all transport methods such as truck, rail, maritime, pipeline and air. Usually available earlier than official trade statistics, it also tracks the shipper and consignee companies at either end of the shipment, and shipment-specific values and quantities. With data now available through June 2020 (week 26), we can now quantify the rate of disruption and recovery due to global COVID-19 complications affecting Mexico's exports to the US for H1 2020. Monthly publications are expected approximately the 24th of each month for the previous month.
Mexico didn't impose large-scale quarantines until the last week of March 2020 (week 13) so export volumes were relatively flat through week 13 even as the quarantines affected trade for many other countries of the world. However, the export contraction reflected significantly in April 2020 (weeks 14-17) and worsened into May 2020 (weeks 18-21) as well as the majority of the newest June 2020 (weeks 22-26) data.
However, the last three weeks in June 2020 (weeks 24-26) reflected a pronounced reversal of the export contraction, trending just 14.54% lower than 2019 volumes in week 24 and 7.74% lower in week 25. By the completion of week 26, the last complete week of June, containerized exports to the US had actually grown 26.48% over 2019 volumes for the same week. The week 26 containerized export count of 139,761 TEUs was the highest weekly volumes reported so far including both 2019 and 2020.
Most cross-border containerized goods are moved by truck (~83.5%), followed by rail (~12.5%) then maritime (~4%), with little change year-on-year even throughout the pandemic disruption.
Looking ahead to the July 2020 containerized baseline
July 1, 2020, marked the first day of the USMCA replacing NAFTA. July 2020 data is not expected to be released until approximately August 24, 2020. The July 2019 baseline TEU volumes for comparison purposes were approximately 489,197, a 18% month-on-month decrease below June 2019 volumes.
Analyzing the same period using metric tons (MTONs), which contains cargos both containerized and non-, we can quantify the beginning of the recovery, disproportionately affecting different industries and their companies. The first 26 weeks of the year showed a 75% decrease in total metric tons, with overall value declining 20.2%.
By USD value, the top five traded commodities are in the areas of automotive, digital processing machines and crude oil. Exports of passenger vehicles (HS 8703) fell 35.4% year-on-year. Automatic data process machines (HS 8471) remained less affected, falling only 4.2% year-on-year for the same comparison period.
Crude oil (HS 2709) export volumes increased 6.1% MTONs year-on-year H1 2019 to H1 2020, but the crash in crude oil prices globally resulted in a decline of 37.3% by value.
Mexico usually carries a trade surplus with the US, exporting more than it imports from its northern neighbor. For the first 26 weeks of the year, Mexico increased import MTONs from the US by 21.2% year-on-year H1 2019 to H1 2020 but decreased import value by 18.8% USD overall, with wild swings depending on the specific commodity category.
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