Mexico Registers Small Trade Deficit in March

By Anthony Harrup Features Dow Jones Newswires

Mexico registered a modest trade deficit in March as a surplus in manufacturing and other goods partially offset a deficit in petroleum trade, the National Statistics Institute said Thursday.

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Exports rose 14.1% from a year earlier to $35.93 billion, while imports were up 15% at $36.11 billion, for a deficit of $183 million. The shortfall brought the trade balance for the first quarter to a deficit of $2.79 billion.

A recovery in oil prices from a year before led to 34.7% increase in petroleum exports, but also contributed to a 68.4% rise in imports of petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel. State oil company Petróleos Mexicanos exported 1 million barrels a day of crude oil last month, down from 1.22 million in February and 1.06 million in March 2016.

The deficit in petroleum trade was $1.72 billion for the month, compared with a $1.53 billion surplus in nonpetroleum goods.

Exports of manufactured goods rose 13.9% from March of 2016 to $32.22 billion, led by an 18.7% gain in shipments of vehicles and auto parts. The Mexican auto industry association earlier this month attributed a big jump in vehicle production and exports to new plants that have gone into operation and to the shift in the Easter holiday to April this year from March. Mexican economic activity slows sharply during Holy Week.

Mexico's trade surplus with the U.S., which was around $63 billion in 2016 and $9.7 billion in the first two months of this year, has been a point of contention for President Donald Trump who has been critical of U.S. companies that move production abroad and then export goods to the U.S.

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A planned renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is expected among other things to include measures to increase the amount of U.S.-made components in Mexican exports under so-called rules of origin.

The White House said late Wednesday, however, that the Trump administration is no longer considering pulling out of the three-nation pact, but will keep that option open if the U.S., Mexico and Canada don't come to a satisfactory agreement.

Mr. Trump tweeted Thursday that the U.S. will leave Nafta "if we do not reach a fair deal for all."

Write to Anthony Harrup at anthony.harrup@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 27, 2017 10:12 ET (14:12 GMT)