The Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo should “bet more on logistics and foreign trade” than on attracting more maquiladoras, according to trade experts.
“Nuevo Laredo no longer needs to invest in maquiladoras, because it is a city more oriented towards customs and services,” said Cirila Quintero, a professor at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (College of the Northern Border) in Tijuana, Mexico.
The college is a prestigious Mexican institute specializing in teaching and research on border issues. Quintero specializes in the research of Mexico’s maquiladora industry.
Quintero was part of a recent study conducted by the Mexico City-based Economic Information Bank (BIE), which indicated in recent years the number of export maquiladoras in Nuevo Laredo has decreased.
Quintero said one reason not to rely too heavily on maquiladoras for economic growth in the future is changing technology.
Maquiladoras have already changed, many will be robotized, with fewer jobs, Quintero said.
“I think that if local governments want to bet on the maquiladoras, they should understand that the maquiladoras have already changed and are something else,” Quintero said in an interview with Primerahora.com.
Quintero added, “the only ones [maquiladoras] that are going to exist are the ones that are going to export, and many of those are going to be robotized, and the point is that if you want to invest in maquiladoras, you should no longer see them at the local level, but in the case of Nuevo Laredo you have to see Laredo, Texas, and see which sectors in Laredo are developing the most.”
Nuevo Laredo – located directly across the U.S.-Mexico border from Laredo, Texas – has 35 maquiladoras that employed 29,878 workers, according to the BIE study. In contrast, in the Mexican cities of Reynosa and Matamoros, maquiladoras are still trending upward.
The city of Reynosa – a sprawling city that lies along the Texas-Mexico border near McAllen – had 151 export maquiladoras, with a total of 131,402 workers.
Matamoros – which also lies along the Texas-Mexico border near Brownsville – has 111 export maquiladoras, with a total of 61,779 workers.
In terms of wages, maquiladora workers in Mexico’s border cities earn around 176 pesos to 212 pesos a day ($9.00-$10.90 USD).
On September 19, Wisconsin-based Modine Manufacturing Company announced the sale of its copper plant in Nuevo Laredo, where the company employs around 500 people, all unionized.
Modine officials have not said if the workers will be laid off. However, workers have expressed fears that Modine has shown a lack of support for the union of maquiladora workers.
Modine has three Nuevo Laredo plants, including copper and aluminum. According to Modine workers, the cooper plant has already reduced production, and its machinery has been moved to Matamoros.