As the U.S. economy emerges from Covid-19-related lockdowns and subsequent supply chain disruptions, business leaders are beginning to develop a roadmap for redesigning their global supply chains with the aim of making them more resilient, environmentally sustainable, and agile. This endeavor, combined with the Biden administration’s goal of making critical sectors of the U.S. economy more self-reliant and less dependent on China, will require public-private partnerships and hundreds of billions in government investments, subsidies, incentives, and sourcing mandates.

But the United States can’t achieve these goals alone. They will require it to collaborate and strengthen trading partnerships with countries in North America, Central America, and South America and build a reliable, cost-effective land-based transportation network that connects the three Americas. Only with strong partnerships and a Pan-American transportation network will the United States be able to bring manufacturing home from Asia. This reconfiguration would benefit all involved: Creating jobs and promoting political stability in poor countries in the Americas would also build wealth in these nations and slow migration from them to the United States.

In a slew of sectors, the only way to develop cost-effective manufacturing in the United States is for those factories to be fed by an ecosystem of low-cost suppliers located in Central and South America rather than Asia. Given the long transit times from suppliers in Asia, it’s unrealistic for U.S. factories to depend on them. Nor is it realistic to expect a major chunk of the supply base now in Asia to relocate to the United States. That’s because the United States doesn’t have the population needed to support a large-scale factory and logistics infrastructure: The average age of its population is 38.5 — much older than that of the labor force in emerging economies — and more flexible service-sector options would make it difficult to find the huge amount of workers to consistently fill factory and logistics jobs such as trucking.

Leveraging Mexico’s and Central America Younger Populations

Mexico and countries in Central America do have the population and demographics to support a large-scale manufacturing and logistics sector. Their workforce is much larger and younger — the average age across Central America is 24 to 28. The labor cost of manufacturing in Mexico is now equivalent to that of China, and in parts of Central America, such as Honduras, it is even lower. Millions of poor Central Americans are desperate for legal job opportunities, and local manufacturing work would be welcomed, especially by communities now plagued by drug trafficking and production. The establishment of a robust manufacturing sector in these countries would also provide their governments with the resources to build professional security forces with the capability to root out drug cartels.

Creating better economic opportunities and reducing crime and corruption would undoubtedly reduce the emigration from those countries to the United States. And a thriving large middle class with spending power would present U.S. companies with a large market close to home.

Finding Sources of Renewable Water

Another consideration in building a robust manufacturing system that encompasses the Americas is the availability of water — an existing problem that seems certain to grow worse due to global warming. Manufacturing requires large amounts of renewable water, and in many parts of the U.S. West and Southwest, water availability is severely constrained.

Canada and the U.S. Great Lakes region have significantly more water. South American countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Peru rank among the top water-rich countries in the world. According to the Global Water Partnership (GWP), nearly a third of the world’s renewable water resources are in South America.

In addition to their water resources, many South American countries also have stronger economies than those in Central America, decent infrastructure, and large talent pools (they have high literacy rates and excellent universities). They also are major food exporters and have established companies in a wide range of industries, including autos, steel, chemicals, electronics, pharmaceuticals, apparel and footwear, and appliances. And last but not least, they are also important sources of commodities such as lithium, copper, iron, silver, zinc, tin, lead, manganese, and bauxite.

Constraining China and Russia

A final reason for the United States and its allies in the Americas to build a strong Pan-American manufacturing ecosystem is to constrain the growing economic, political, and military power of China in particular but also Russia. It’s a goal that President Joseph Biden emphasized in the recent G7 Summit, where he called on the world’s richest democracies to offer developing countries an alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative, which has made major inroads in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East and has large port and road construction projects in the works in Central American countries.

Russia and China have donated millions of Covid-19 vaccines to countries in South America in a bid to increase influence in these regions and gain preferential mining rights and bids on infrastructure projects. At their summit, the Group of Seven countries pledged to provide one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to poor countries over the next year and take other actions to increase supplies.

Modernizing the Pan-American Transportation Network

The existing Pan-American Highway is a 19,000-mile network of roads throughout North, Central and South America. The only major break in it is the Darién Gap, the 100-mile marshy and forested region separating Central and South America. To link major industrial regions across the continents in the near term, the roads would need to be expanded and upgraded, and the Darién Gap would have to be bridged, which new tunneling technologies could help achieve. In the medium to long term, a modern rail transportation network would have to be built. This road and rail network would allow goods to travel seamlessly and swiftly over land across the three Americas without spending weeks on the ocean.

In supply chains, speed translates into cash and flexibility translates into resilience. A regional, “near-shored” supply chain would accelerate movement between industrial hubs across the Americas, substantially reducing transit times from raw material to finished goods to final point of sale by weeks. Less time spent in transit would mean less cash tied up in inventory. Consequently, manufacturers would have reduced working capital requirements and healthier balance sheets.

Making It Happen

Of course, a strategic reset of this magnitude will take time and come with a hefty price tag. The best comparison is the Belt and Road initiative, which China launched in 2013. It is aimed at improving the infrastructure between 70 countries across Asia and Europe and into Africa. The estimated cost of this Chinese-financed mega-project is $8 trillion. The United States is in the best position to lead the Pan-American initiative, but it is highly likely that other countries in the Americas would be willing to help share the costs given the clear economic, political, and social benefits that they would reap. Indeed, the creation of the U.S. Interstate Highway System, which was originally championed by President Eisenhower in the 1950s, provided a huge economic boost and helped turn the United States into a global economic powerhouse.

In addition to public outlays, other means could be used to help finance the construction of the network. They include the cash flow from usage fees and tolls, offtake contracts or preferential-rights agreements that would obligate users of the transportation system to buy goods from a company or country making the initial investment in the network, and privately financed build-operate-transfer (BOT) projects, where a private party helps pay for infrastructure in return for the right to operate and collect fees from it for a set period.

Admittedly, the current security, political, and infrastructural problems plaguing countries in Central and South America pose enormous near-term challenges in building a Pan-American manufacturing ecosystem. However, industries like apparel and food already operate in these countries, and there is a budding medical-devices-manufacturing sector in Costa Rica. Other companies could apply the lessons that players in those industries have learned about how to build and ship from factories in Central and South America.

It would be up to more-developed countries like the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil to persuade other countries to embrace the vision and join this ambitious endeavor. Most countries in the Americas aspire to work closely with the United States. And given the better future that a robust Pan-American manufacturing ecosystem could provide for their populations, many would undoubtedly be willing to support the infrastructure projects with guarantees and exclusive market-entry agreements and rights.

To remain competitive in the global landscape, the United States and other countries in the Americas need to revamp their economic ties. They should set their sights on designing the supply chain for the next 50 years that can bring prosperity to all of them.

SEE ORIGINAL SOURCE HBR.ORG

by John Siciliano

The untapped market for U.S. crude oil and natural gas isn’t across the sea in Asia or Europe, but just across the border in Mexico.

More than 50 percent of Mexico’s energy imports now comes from the U.S. as Mexico’s national oil and gas company, Pemex, struggles to reinvest in its own production, according to a new report due out this week from S&P Global Platts that underscores the large stake Mexico has in buying fossil fuels from the United States.

The country also has to move forward with a plan that began two years ago to restructure its energy markets and make them more competitive by attracting more participants from the U.S. and other countries.

President Trump often touts America’s rapid growth as an oil and gas producer and exporter. The White House last week issued a statement touting new Energy Department data that showed the U.S. is on target to become a net natural gas exporter this year, meaning it will ship more of the fuel abroad than it imports. Mexico will play a role in that.

“Pipeline imports of U.S. natural gas make up nearly 60 percent of total Mexican natural gas supply, compared to just 22 percent in 2010,” according to the report’s executive summary reviewed ahead of publication by the Washington Examiner. And that trend isn’t about to change any time soon. “Platts Analytics expects that U.S. natural gas imports will rise to nearly 70 percent of total supply by 2022.”

To meet the demand for natural gas from the U.S., Mexican pipeline import capacity has risen by 145 percent in the last seven years, according to the report. Mexican officials in the U.S. recently pointed out that the increase in natural gas use is driven partly by environmental targets that demand it switch to cleaner-burning natural gas to meet its electricity demand.

But Mexico is a bit of a novice in dealing with the complexities of operating a competitive natural gas market. It only just ramped up a new natural gas trading structure last month as part of its five-year market restructuring plan, according to S&P Global.

“Mexico’s natural gas market is in a massive state of flux,” according to S&P Global. “Gas trading is still in a nascent stage of development after getting off the ground in July.” Natural gas purchasers are being cautious about the new system that is meant to inject more competition into the market. “Gas buyers are hesitant to leave Pemex” and be dependent on another supplier, given that “current supply/demand conditions suggest that areas of supply shortage and/or transportation constraints could experience [higher] premium prices.”

Manufacturers and other industrial natural gas customers “have expressed concern about the recent lifting of natural gas price caps on first-hand sales and the possibility of price spikes in some regions,” according to the report. On the generation side, the cost of electricity has increased at a healthy pace compared to the lower prices in the United States, but that’s because the Mexican market has struggled to keep up with demand for the clean-burning fossil fuel.

Power prices are climbing in Mexico as the natural gas market tightens, with prices rising 56 percent in the first half of the year, the report said.

But those hiccups aren’t stopping U.S. energy companies from wanting to get into the Mexican market. Take ExxonMobil, for example. It “sees Mexico as an expanding market” where demand for fossil-based fuels is projected to grow more than 40 percent over the next 25 years, according to the report. At the same time, U.S. demand is expected to fall by 17 percent. The market for gasoline and diesel will be growing in Mexico, while the U.S. market is shrinking.

Mexican imports of refined U.S. oil products such as gasoline experienced massive growth in the first quarter of 2017.

“Unable to meet growing demand with local production, Mexico is opening its refined products markets to competition,” the report said. “Imports of U.S. petroleum products over the first four months of 2017 were up over 125 percent year-on-year. Mexico is in the process of expanding its refined products pipelines and terminals, and allowing outside access to existing assets.”

That might be the reason why BP opened its first internationally branded retail gas station in Mexico City in May. It is the first of 1,500 new fuel stations that the oil company plans to build in the country.

In contrast to the U.S., some large oil companies like Exxon have completely exited from the gas station business altogether over the last decade.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s Pemex opened its first gas station in the United States about a year and a half ago in Houston. A Pemex official at the time said the station is meant to test the company’s ability to compete in the U.S. It plans to build a fleet of five stations in the Houston area.

“We want to be put to the toughest test,” said José Manuel Carrera Panizzo, the company’s head of business development. “In terms of historic importance, it’s the first time Pemex puts a gas station outside the Mexican borders,” he said. “We’re trying to bring Mexico closer to American consumers … [and] we’re very excited.”

 

Source: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/mexico-fast-becoming-the-uss-largest-market-for-energy-exports-report-says/article/2631329

 

The Multifaceted Metamorphosis Ahead for Mexico's Energy Markets

The Mexico energy market has been a hot topic ever since late 2013 when the government decided to liberalize the energy sector, opening it up to foreign investment. The reform provides an unprecedented opportunity for international companies to participate in development of the nation’s vast oil resources as PEMEX unwinds its current monopoly. Multiple other opportunities exist in the power sector, in renewable development and in the natural gas pipeline sector.

The energy reforms were largely a result of the steep decline of the country’s oil production, inadequate financial resources to turn production around and an inability of PEMEX to keep pace with the technological change taking place in the industry.

Mexico ranks sixth in the world for non-conventional oil and gas resources, right behind Canada and Algeria, but lacks the financial resources to develop its reserves. It would take US$20 billion to extract the country’s reserves over a 210-year period and $87 billion to do it in 50 years. It also would not be possible to do this with one state-owned exploration and production monopoly — this is why the reforms were necessary.

 

Mexico, US and Canada sign energy MOU

Mexico, Canada and the US have signed a memorandum of understanding for energy and climate change cooperation, aimed at harmonizing the three countries’ policies and promoting green strategies.

The three countries announced last week that they are moving toward energy integration during Mexican energy minister Pedro Joaquín Coldwell’s visit to Winnipeg.

Coldwell (pictured, right) met with Canada’s natural resources minister Jim Carr (center) and US energy secretary Ernest Moniz (left), all of whom signed the MOU, according to Mexico’s energy ministry (Sener).

Coldwell said that among the three nations’ common aims is to offer clean electricity at competitive prices based on a lasting infrastructure, and highlighted Mexico’s commitment toward the three countries’ energy integration.

The meeting between the three ministers resulted in agreements to work toward increased electric power grid efficiency, use of green technology and the commitment to create common regulations to control CO2 emissions.

Mexico’s energy reform promotes the use of renewable energy sources and the first long-term power auction, to be held on March 31, will allow for the generation of cleaner, cheaper electricity, Coldwell said.

“In Mexico we are promoting investment in gas pipelines and combined cycle power plants with cutting-edge technology,” he said.

He also referred to Mexico’s auction of shallow water, onshore and deepwater oil fields, the latter of which is to be held in October, bringing private investment to the oil and gas sector.

Of the foreign firms that have so far been awarded contracts in the oil and gas auctions, five are from the US and one is Canadian, he said.

Mexico is also expanding its electricity connection with the US and moving forward with natural gas pipeline connections with its northern neighbor, he added.

Coldwell said the MOU incorporates previous agreements between the three countries, as well as commitments assumed at the COP21 climate talks in Paris.

 

Source: http://www.bnamericas.com/en/news/petrochemicals/mexico-us-and-canada-sign-energy-mou2