Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Mexico remains top US trade partner; second USMCA labor complaint lodged at Mexican factory; Hyliion expands Texas headquarters; and avocado imports from Mexico up 26%.

Mexico remains top US trade partner, Canada No. 2

For the second month in a row, Mexico was the main trading partner of the U.S., followed by Canada in second place and China in third. 

Trade between the U.S. and Mexico totaled $54.7 billion in April, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau analyzed by WorldCity. Trade with Canada was $52.6 billion, and it totaled $49.3 billion with China.

China had been the top U.S. trade partner for 10 consecutive months from May 2020 to February 2021.

Jorge Canavati, principal at J. Canavati & Co., said the U.S. economy has come “roaring back, which affects Mexico in a positive manner.” J. Canavati & Co. is a San Antonio-based company that provides international logistics and trade consulting.

“The China factor is still complicated, while trade between China and the U.S. is growing — but tariffs, which are still in place, make this trade complicated,” Canavati told FreightWaves. “The growth of China trade has also added to the brutal congestion now happening at several international ports, exacerbated by a tremendous COVID-19 outbreak among port workers at the Yantian International Container Terminals, one of China’s busiest container ports.”

A COVID-19 outbreak that began in late May at Yantian and other container shipping ports in China is worsening. In response, Chinese authorities have stepped up safety protocols, causing some of the largest backlogs since at least 2019.

In the current situation, shippers are often paying well over $10,000 per forty-foot equivalent container units from Asia to the U.S., FreightWaves’ Greg Miller recently reported

“Many massive container ships are anchored offshore waiting in Yantian,” Canavati said. “There are two-week delays, and the shipping rate has skyrocketed to all-time highs. The situation is now worse than the accident at the Suez Canal.”

Canavati said the delays from China’s ports are causing congestion in U.S. ports along the West Coast, such as the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland.

“The situation with U.S. ports on the West Coast is insane, especially in Oakland,” Canavati said. “All this is advantageous to U.S.-Mexico trade.”

The top three U.S. imports from Mexico in April were passenger vehicles ($2.7 billion), computers ($2.4 billion) and commercial vehicles ($2.3 billion). 

The top three U.S. exports to Mexico in April were gasoline and other fuels ($2.3 billion), motor vehicle parts ($1.2 billion) and computer chips ($997 million). 

The Port of Los Angeles ranked No. 1 among U.S. gateways in April, followed by Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Port Laredo in Texas was the No. 1 U.S. port for trade with Mexico in April and No. 4 among all U.S. gateways for the month. Port Laredo’s total trade with the world was $20.39 billion in April.

Laredo’s outbound tender volume index (OTVI.LRD) — a measure of shipper requests for truckload capacity — fell over 5% last week while the outbound tender rejection index (OTRI) — the rate at which these requests are rejected by carriers — was flat at the beginning of June.

(Chart: FreightWaves SONAR OTVI.LRD and OTRI.LRD. To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

Port Laredo’s top three exports from the U.S. into Mexico in April were motor vehicle parts ($784 million), gasoline ($494 million) and diesel combustion engines ($385 million). The top three imports were motor vehicle parts ($1.53 billion), passenger vehicles ($853 million) and commercial trucks ($683 million).

Second USMCA labor complaint lodged at auto factory in Mexico

The Biden administration asked the Mexican government on Wednesday to review whether workers at the Tridonex automotive parts facility in Matamoros, Mexico, are being denied the rights of free association and collective bargaining.

The request by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Labor Department, follows a complaint in May by groups including the AFL-CIO against the Tridonex factory.

Both complaints were brought under the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The trade agreement allows the review of factory-specific labor grievances and could result in import restrictions on the plant’s products.

Under the rapid response mechanism, Mexico has 10 days to agree to conduct a review. If Mexican officials find that workers’ labor rights are being infringed upon, the country has 45 days to remedy the situation.

“Workers’ ability to exercise their fundamental human rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining without retaliation is essential to building independent unions in Mexico,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said in a statement

The Tridonex plant, which has around 4,000 workers, refits secondhand car parts for sale in the U.S. and Canada. Most of the workers earn $176.72 to $212.06 pesos ($8.82-$10.64) a day, according to SNITIS. Tridonex is a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Cardone Industries.

Avocado imports from Mexico up 26%

Exports of avocados from Mexico to the United States increased 26% during the first four months of 2021, according to Mexico City-based Agricultural Markets Consultant Group (GCMA).

GCMA said the increase in exports was due to a 15% per ton reduction in avocado prices, along with increased avocado farms. Prices fell on avocados due to larger harvests across Mexico, GCMA said.

“In the first four-month period, positive plot yields were maintained, with a 1.6% increase in harvested areas and 5% higher production yields,” GCMA said in a statement.

Data from Avocados From Mexico — a U.S.-based, nonprofit marketing organization that promotes Mexican avocados — shows that 2021 Mexican avocado imports are on track to reach 2.4 billion pounds by July 5, which would end the fiscal year on a record-setting note. 

Hyliion expanding headquarters in Austin, Texas

Hyliion Holdings (NYSE: HYLN) recently announced plans to expand the company’s headquarters located just north of Austin, Texas.

Hyliion, which designs and develops electrified engines for commercial vehicles, currently occupies an 82,800-square-foot facility and plans to expand to nearly 124,100 square feet. The larger space will allow the company to increase capacity by 50%, according to a news release.

“We are growing to accommodate current and expected future demand for our innovative powertrain solutions,” CEO Thomas Healy said in a statement. “Each decision made in our building redesign is intended to support our commercialization goals as we work toward the rollout of our new Hybrid unit later this year and the launch of our Hypertruck ERX.”

The increased space will allow Hyliion to increase from its current 136 employees to 500. The headquarters redesign will be done in three phases, with the first expected to be complete in October.

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