St. Mary's Law Journal


Trade between the United State and Mexico rose dramatically over the past decade. Several factors account for this increase in trade. These factors include the relative weakness of the Mexican currency, growth of the maquiladora industry, and increased Mexican production of exportable products generally. Other factors include Mexico’s 1986 accession to General Agreements Tariff and Trade (GATT), the resultant lowering of Mexican customs duties, and a good long-term working relationship between the two countries. If ongoing negotiations culminate in a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the trend will accelerate.

Laws regulating the importation of merchandise into the United States are primarily enforced by the United States Customs Service, with the cooperation of other agencies. The governing laws are mainly the customs laws, which are codified in Title 19 of the United States Code. Nevertheless, many other laws ordinarily enforced by other agencies are also included. These laws are later enforced at the border in tandem with other involved agencies. The customs laws regulating imports are as protective today as ever before in the history of this country. Although by international agreements rates of duty on imports into the United States have dramatically fallen since the Smoot Hawley Act of 1930, other insidious impediments to the easy flow of trade have multiplied in number and force.

Hard-nosed enforcement by the United States Customers Service and its sister agencies have replaced duty rates as impediments to trade. The pending NAFTA under negotiation between Mexico and the United States promises to eliminate duties on most imports and exports over a relatively short time and to eliminate all duties and quantitative restraint rates on trade between the two countries. Other non-tariff barriers to trade are under negotiation. These changes may or may not affect the character of enforcement by the Customs Service.


St. Mary's University School of Law