At an online meeting of Mexico's industry leaders last week, Fausto Cuevas, head of the automotive association, said nearly all of the automakers in Mexico are preparing paperwork — due by July 1 — that would give them extra time to comply with the new regional content requirements of the agreement.
The higher-content rules go into full effect in 2023; that can be extended to 2025 on a case-by-case basis.
The USMCA launch is drawing near even as Mexican factories move tenderly back into business from the interruption of the pandemic.
Most of Mexico's supplier plants began calling back workers in late May to implement health and safety procedures such as physical distancing. But they did not start production until June 1, and even now, they are only at about 30 percent of capacity, Oscar Albin, president of the Mexican Auto Parts Industry Association, said at last week's meeting.
Some automakers were able to get their safety plans approved by the Mexican government in late May. The first to report a partial restart was General Motors, which is eager to replenish its pickup inventory after surprisingly strong sales during the coronavirus shutdown.
Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan and others followed, but with a limited work force.
Some big industry players were not so lucky.
The state of Puebla — a hot spot for virus infections — balked at the federal government's reopening plan for key sectors on June 1. That meant Volkswagen, Audi and most supplier plants in the state weren't allowed to open until this week. The state government did allow some suppliers to restart on June 1.
There was some pushback to the industry reopening, as Ford reported four coronavirus infections among workers returning to its Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ plant in Hermosillo, Sonora. There were media reports of supplier factories with COVID-19 infections and several worker deaths.
Last week, Mexico as a whole was reporting up to 600 coronavirus deaths per day.
Ford said the infections at the Hermosillo plant were discovered as part of random testing for the virus as workers returned. Those who had contact with the infected employees were told to quarantine for two weeks, and the affected areas of the plant were cleaned and disinfected before production resumed.