International trade and customs in Mexico

Baker McKenzie Abogados, S.C.

Fielding a ‘very well organised, intelligent, proactive and professional’ team, Baker McKenzie Abogados, S.C. is a force to be reckoned with: operating from  offices in Ciudad Juarez, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey and Tijuana, the 25-strong practice has a nationwide presence and can also call on the firm’s international network. The group handles matters relating to IMMEX (maquiladoras), customs audits, litigation, international trade agreements, relations with the authorities, cross border activities, and export controls. Recent work highlights saw the team assist a company in the pharmaceutical sector follow the correct procedure to add insurance fees and royalties to the customs paperwork covering its imports;  advise a client on a nullity claim to challenge a $3m tax assessment determined by the customs authority; and assist with NAFTA verifications of origin, avoidance or reduction of payment of antidumping duties, and audits. Juarez-based Manuel Padron-Castillo heads the practice; he is an expert in maquiladora matters and is currently legal advisor on customs matter to the National Maquila Industry Association, involving participation in the renegotiation of NAFTA. In Mexico City, Adriana Ibarra-Fernandez focuses on customs and international trade matters, including rules of origin, verifications of origin and related subjects in terms of FTAs, tariff classification, customs valuation, maquila (IMMEX), consumer protection and labelling, as well as other non-tariff import regulations. In Guadalajara, ‘top of the lineAlejandro Martinez-Galindo specialises in customs and foreign trade compliance matters, tariff and non-tariff regulations and classifications, IMMEX programmes, FTAs, customs valuations, and country-of-origin determinations, certifications and marking. Other key contacts include Armando De Lille-Calatayud in Monterrey, Daniel Sanchez-Elizondo in Guadalajara, José Hoyos, Raymundo E Enriquez, and associate Andrea Dieguez-Orozco in Mexico City, as well as Jorge Ambriz-Cuevas in Juarez, also an associate.

Chévez, Ruiz, Zamarripa y Cía SC

Top of the list’ tax boutique Chévez, Ruiz, Zamarripa y Cía SC is unanimously well regarded in the market for its international trade and customs work, which it combines with a very strong tax practice, especially for contentious matters. More specifically, the 14-strong team handles tariff classification for imported and exported goods; customs valuations; non-tariff restrictions and international contracting regulations; tax and customs authorities' audits; import and export procedures; IMMEX matters; VAT and excise tax certification for goods imported on a temporary basis, or through a bonded warehouse or a strategic tax precinct; FTAs; rules of origin; compliance and all trade and customs-related disputes. Ricardo Romero, Francisco Cortina, and Guillermo Sánchez are all recommended, as is Eduardo Díaz Gavito. Support comes from senior associate Gerardo Canseco Romero, who focuses on litigation and foreign trade, as well as Jorge Sánchez Peralta and associate Samuel Salvador Martínez in Monterrey.

SAI Derecho & Economía S.C

SAI Derecho & Economía S.C  is something of an outlier among international trade and customs firms in Mexico as it houses lawyers and economists - many of whom have held high public office and took part in the NAFTA negotiations; as a result, the advice it provides ranges from specific lega matters through to broader consulting regarding the market. In the former, the team is especially noted for its antidumping and FTA work, and it is praised for being ‘really specialised’ and for ‘retaining and forming valuable young lawyers’. Recent work saw the practice deliver custom-made analyses of the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) for IEnova and Vitro, tailored to focus on their respective industries; and the team also continued to provide regulator reports on NAFTA to clients including Accenture, Actinver Casa de Bolsa, Banco Santander México, BBVA Bancomer, Braskem Idesa Servicios, ExxonMobil Exploración y Producción México, Nomura Securities, and the American Embassy in Mexico. Other work includes carrying out a comprehensive study for the government of the state of Guanajuato on its national and foreign investment programme (established in 1995), analysing the legal, social and economic impact of the programme and identifying measures for improvement. Practice head Beatriz Leycegui Gardoqui has been working in the sector for almost three decades, including as undersecretary of Foreign Trade (2006-11); since 2013 she has been on the WTO’s indicative list of governmental and non-governmental panelists and she is currently a member of the arbitral panel in a case regarding the use of certain methodologies by the US in anti-dumping investigations involving Chinese products. Key support comes from associate María Cristina Hernández Zermeño.

Vázquez Tercero & Zepeda

International trade and customs is one of the core practices at the boutique firm Vázquez Tercero & Zepeda, which has offices in Mexico City, Guadalajara, León, Monterrey and Reynosa. The practice covers the full range of IT&C matters, including trade policy, customs compliance, regulatory matters, customs litigation, and tax planning and litigation; it has a very strong focus on antidumping matters. In recent, and in some cases ongoing, work, the team was instructed by POSCO/Hyundai Steel on the sunset antidumping duty investigation being carried out by the Ministry of Economy, and for which the firm successfully maintained the Suspension Agreement and an increase of import volume; Dow Chemical, in its representation before the Mexican investigating authority in a sunset antidumping duty investigation, concluded in March 2018, and representing an importer in the refund of antidumping duties amounting to $1m for a chemical product; and Chevron Products in relation to a NAFTA origin verification audit conducted by the Mexican Tax Administration Service in connection with imported lubricants. In the steem sector, it also represented Welspun in an antidumping investigation into welded steel pipe from India, the United States and Spain; and by a number of clients in an anti-dumping investigation into steel plates from Italy and Japan. Managing partner Adrián Vázquez in Mexico City, along with Eduardo Zepeda and Eduardo González Espinosa in Guadalajara, co-lead the practice. Additional names to note include Verónica Vázquez Bravo and associates Emilio Arteaga Vázquez and Mariana Rivera Gutiérrez, as well as associate Alejandro Martínez Rivera in Guadalajara. However, Horacio A López-Portillo left the firm to establish his own boutique in June 2019. Other clients include American Sugar Coalition and China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textiles.

Basham, Ringe y Correa, S.C.

The highly-rated Sergio Barajas leads the team at Basham, Ringe y Correa, S.C., which combines its international trade and customs expertise with its strong tax practice. Covering customs procedures, WTO and NAFTA, IMMEX-related matters, audits, verification of origin, administrative procedures and foreign trade strategy for new operations, among other issues, the team's recent work included assisting Turkish Airlines on several matters in relation to Turkish Cargo’s importation and exportation activities; representing Herbalife before the tax authorities in relation to an assessed $120m VAT deficiency based on the argument that the products commercialised by the company (nutritional supplements) do not constitute nourishment and therefore should not qualify for 0% VAT but rather the general 16% rate; and Test Tape in a nullity claim filed with the tax court contesting an SAT assessment increasing the value of imported goods by the price of the IP royalties paid by the company. The firm has offices in Mexico City, Monterrey, Querétaro, and León.

EC Legal Rubio Villegas

International trade and customs is the core practice at EC Legal Rubio Villegas, which fields a 'solid' team made up of ‘very experienced’ lawyers. The firm, which has offices in Mexico City, Querétaro, Irapuato and Ciudad Juárez, not only merged with Chihuahua-based firm BGM Consultores Legales in March 2019, giving it an even greater presence on the US-Mexican border; but also opened a sixth office, in Puebla, in July 2019. The practice focuses primarily on customs administrative proceedings, origin cases and trade remedy cases, and it has handled important work for clients succh as Estée Lauder International, American Greetings, EDF EN Servicios Eólicos, Avery, Lenovo, Omron, Foxconn, Tesla, and Honeywell. Juan Carlos Partida and Eduardo David are both highly-rated antidumping experts; Alejandro Montes is another name to note. All three are based in Mexico City, with Partida also working out of Puebla.

Jáuregui y Del Valle, S.C.

The respected Jáuregui y Del Valle, S.C. fields a team of six lawyers that handles all aspects of international trade and customs, including litigation, market access, trade policy, multilateral and bilateral trade agreements, preferential trade regimes, customs compliance, trade compliance and trade remedies. The solid team acted for ADM subsidiary Almidones Mexicanos, and Tate & Lyle, in trade-related matters concerning the potential impact of changes in NAFTA, negotiations concerning sweeteners in NAFTA and other international agreements, and the VAT applicable to food imports into Mexico. It also involved in a number of antidumping cases, acting for Internacional de Cerámica in an investigation into Chinese imports; Schwabe subsidiary Laboratorios Farmasa regarding the importation of medicines; Trade Comercializadora Internacional in customs matters concerning the importation and finishing of textiles from China for apparel, home textiles and potential export to South America; and Mount Vernon Mills in a large dispute concerning textile imports. Practice head David Hurtado built the firm’s practice and is considered ‘one of the key players in trade matters in Mexico’; key support comes from senior associate Julia García de Acevedo Chávez, who covers dumping, customs, and health-related international commerce. Luis Carballo Balvanera, who handles tax and administrative litigation and constitutional proceedings, is another key contact; and associate Carlos Solano Ortiz, an additional name to note.

SMPS Legal

Alexis Michel leads the four-strong practice at SMPS Legal which covers tax obligation compliance, tariff classifications, customs valuation, free trade agreement matters, verification of origin procedures, criteria confirmation before tax and customs authorities; foreign trade programmes (such as IMMEX), drawback and sector promotion programmes; internal audits and compliance; and antidumping, countervailing and safeguards investigations.  The lawyers, clients note, are ‘very knowledgeable and experienced’ and ‘their assistance is always on time and on point’, qualities that also apply specifically to Michel, who is a standout name at the firm and in the market. Key support comes from senior associate Ana Karen Navarrete. Uniquely, the firm has offices in Mexico City, Dallas, Bogotá and Calgary.

Sánchez Devanny

The eight-strong team at Sánchez Devanny assisted Insurance Auto Auctions – KAR Group, a relevant American used car dealership company, in complex litigation against the customs authorities following the SAT’s cancellation of the client’s used vehicles registry, and obtaining a suspension of the registry cancellation while the court case is ongoing. It also advised Marubeni Mexico on responding to an invitation (carta invitación) by the customs authorities to regularise its tax situation in connection with the purchase of aluminium through a bonded warehouse scheme; and an American grilling products manufacturer in a NAFTA international verification-of-origin process initiated by the Mexican Customs Authorities. The practice also acts on general import/export matters, export promotion programmes (including IMMEX), free trade agreements (FTAs), trade facilitation, M&A-customs analysis, risk assessment, tariff and non-tariff restrictions and export controls, anti-counterfeiting customs measures, customs and administrative litigation, customs audits, and tariff, non-tariff and export-control requirements; it has particular experience in the chemicals, automotive, food and beverages, cosmetics, medical devices, pharmaceutical, energy, alcohol and tobacco sectors. Turenna Ramirez and José Alberto Campos- Vargas co-lead the team. Key support comes from Eduardo Sotelo-Cauduro, who was raised to the partnership in February 2020, and associate Maria Luisa Mendoza López. Other clients include Niagara Bottling, Kellogg’s, Sharp, Nippon Seiki, Grupo Embotellador Pepsico, and Sempra Energy.

Foley Gardere Arena

Alejandro Gómez-Strozzi and Marcos Carrasco Menchaca co-head the practice at Foley Gardere Arena, which handles the full range of international trade and customs matters with a particular dedication to the automotive, food, and steel industries. Recent work has included advice on a sunset review of a material used in several manufacturing processes on behalf a multi-national producer of consumer goods, and conducting administrative appeals and tax trials on behalf of national and international clients. The firm resulted from the April-2018 merger of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP with Foley & Lardner. Associate Doraluz Galindo Zamudio is another name to note.

Galicia Abogados S.C.

Clients appreciate Galicia Abogados S.C.’s ‘reactivity, pertinent questions, and ability to adapt to clients’ needs: the firm delivers on its promises in terms of time and quality’. The trade practice focuses on the energy, pharmaceutical, automotive, telecommunications, chemical, e-commerce and retail industries, handling maquila (IMMEX) and PROSEC programmes, certified companies (OEA or C-TPAT equivalent), VAT certificates, quotas, certifications, licences, import and export permits; tariff classifications and compliance with tax and customs obligations, as well as antidumping and subsidies investigations, litigation and arbitration processes, and FTA negotiations. Recent highlights included assisting Eosol Energy recover $6.8m unduly charged by the Tax Authorities as a result of the tariff mis-classification of solar panels imported into Mexico; Compañía Occidental Mexicana obtain authorisation to export plaster under special conditions; and Decathlon comply with technical, safety, security and labelling requirements in relation to its importation and commercialization of goods. Senior associate Mario Valencia is valued by clients and peers alike: ‘he is attentive and aware of clients’ needs’; also respected, practice head Daniel Amezquita Diaz represents clients in constitutional violation cases, representative tax assessments, anti-dumping resolutions, international arbitration and other matters relating to sanctions imposed by federal and local authorities. Associates Diego Manzano and Sheidel Francioli (who arrived from Sánchez Devanny in mid-2018) are also active in the practice. Other clients include AT&T and B&G Foods. Since publication, Valencia has been raised to the partnership, effective January 2020.

Hogan Lovells

The four-lawyer team at Hogan Lovells divides its practice into international trade/WTO procedures and customs. It handles consultancy, litigation and administrative procedures, more specifically focusing on antidumping matters, tariff classification, customs compliance and regulations, rules of origin, tax audits related with customs compliance and import regulations established in tax legislation, customs/tax strategies, IMMEX/maquiladora activities, PROSEC matters, bonded and strategic tax warehousing and temporary importation regimes. Recent mandates saw the team continue its assistance to Nissin Food Products in a case concerning machinery seizure by the tax-and-customs authorities for alleged lack of legal importation and permanence documentation; as well as ongoing representation of Mccord Payen de México before the tax authorities in a case relating to VAT triggered by a bonded-warehouse import. The practice also successfully represented Pilgrim’s Pride in a NAFTA Chapter XIX review opposing a Ministry of Economy determination imposing anti-dumping duties on chicken leg imports from the US; and assisted Products Rich in securing confirmation from tax authority SAT of the exemption of the importation of certain products from the payment of VAT. The very active Mario Jorge Yañez co-heads the practice with the similarly visible Arturo Tiburcio and Juan Francisco Torres Landa; key support comes from senior associate Mario Lara. Other clients include Química Foliar and AdvanceSix.

Holland & Knight

A relatively new practice, which started life in 2016, the team at Holland & Knight ‘is able to provide concrete, practical and extremely helpful advice’ and has been growing and establishing itself advising an interesting roster of clients. The team provides legal counsel on contentious and non-contentious matters, with recent highlights including its continued assistance to Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna (PAST) -a group consisting of four leading fishing companies in Mexico- in its successful attempt to obtain Marine Stewardship Counsel (MSC)-certification. In other work, the team has advised on matters ranging from NAFTA verification-of-origin and renegotiation procedures, imports and exports, WTO disputes and permits, to other trade and customs and regulatory issues including Brexit. The department is led by Luis Rubio, whose practice also includes corporate and transaactional matters; clients appreciate his ‘service vocation coupled with great experience’. Carlos Vejar, who was previously general counsel for international trade at the Ministry of Economy, is another key contact. Other names to note in the five-strong team include associate Josafat Paredes and senior counsel Blanca Luévano.

Jones Day

Of counsel Javier Cortés leads the practice at Jones Day, which handles the full array of trade matters, with a special focus on maquiladora, regulatory, and FTA matters, as well as litigation; and the team can also call on the firm’s international network. Key expertise is contributed by Mauricio Llamas, also of counsel, whose practice includes government regulation; he has 25 years’ experience in customs duties and maquila matters, as well as at the Mexican tax authority (SAT). Departmental clients have included Manhattan Beachwear Jinko Solar, Andeavor (formerly Tesoro), RCMA Americas, Dufry, Husqvarna, Gildan / Allstyle, UPS, Reebok/Adidas, Lanxess, Cardinal Health, and Rassini.

Santamarina y Steta

One of the oldest law firms in Mexico, Santamarina y Steta advises clients on the full range of trade matters, including structuring operations in line with customs obligations, FTAs, IMMEX, tariff and non-tariff matters, taxation, antidumping, verification of origin, and related disputes. The practice is led by Alejandro Luna; working alongside him are Ernesto Duhne and tax specialist Mariano Calderón . Key support comes from associates Karina Robledo, Ivan Szymanski, Stephanie Uribe, Jair Vaca, and Michel Zelaya.

Velázquez Elizarrarás y Velázquez Pazará

Velázquez Elizarrarás y Velázquez Pazará  (formerly Gómez Violante y Velázquez Elizarrarás) is a corporate boutique specialised in advising clients on the various aspects of international trade and customs, including FTAs, antidumping, and related disputes. Miguel Ángel Velázquez Elizarrarás and Lourdes Lizeth Velázquez Pazarán are the key contacts; associate Elisa Maya Bistre is another name to note.

Von Wobeser y Sierra, SC

The six-lawyer practice group at Von Wobeser y Sierra, SC is ‘very competent, fast, cooperative and always available to support the client’. With a strong focus on German companies, the team assists clients in the automotive, consumer goods, food and life sciences industries expanding or operating in Mexico with matters pertaining to FTAs, IMMEX, taxation, and related disputes. The team assisted BMW with the establishment of its new Mexican plant for the production of light vehicles, handling all customs and administrative provisions and benefits; Miele, with the negotiation and execution of an import-logistic services agreement with Geodis Wilson México; and Ensambles de Coahuila, a Mexican subsidiary of Cintas Corporation, with obtaining duty free import quotas for the US for certain products not falling under the remit of NAFTA. Luis Miguel Jiménez heads the practice and tax partner Fernando Moreno is another name to note; key support comes from associates Belén Barroeta, María de Lourdes Salazar, and Jorge Díaz. Clients include Takata, Fresenius Medical Care, MARS, Saargummi, Carbones Holding, Invenergy, Siemens Servicios, and Trimas Corporation.

Cacheaux, Cavazos & Newton

Working on both sides of the border -the firm has 11 offices, four in the US and seven across Mexico- Cacheaux, Cavazos & Newton handles a wide variety of trade-related issues, including compliance, tariffs, FTAs, non-tariff barriers and restrictions, audits and disputes. Former key practitioner Edmundo Elías left to join Ramos, Ripoll & Schuster in August 2018. Name partners Rene Cacheaux and Daniel Cavazos are now the two  key contacts.

Goodrich, Riquelme y Asociados

Goodrich, Riquelme y Asociados handles non-tariff regulations and restrictions, tax payments, foreign trade audits, disputes, antidumping and IMMEX matters, among others. The team has carried out a variety of work for key client Cafés de Especialidad de Chiapas, recently, including obtaining the client's registration under the strategic bonded warehouse category, and day-to-day import and export and customs work; it also assisted GKN Driveline Newton in an annulment proceeding against a verification-of-origin procedure carried out by the Tax Authorities; and represented Levi Strauss de México before the Ministry of Economy in a tax refund procedure. Francisco Gómez and tax expert Sergio Ruiz co-lead the practice; associate Yoselin Sanabria provides support. Other clients include Agroindustrias Unidas de México, Agroindustrias Unidas de Cacao, Agrocacao Industrial, and Japan Tobacco International de México.

Ortiz, Hernández y Orendain, S.C.

Spun out of Basham back in 2014, Ortiz, Hernández y Orendain, S.C. remains a young firm but the majority of the team has been working together for many years and is something of an institution in international trade and customs in Mexico. The practice advises clients operating in Mexico on imports and exports, verification of origin, FTAs, audits, disputes, taxation, and IMMEX, among other area specializations. Name partner Gerardo Hernández is the key contact and a market reference.