During his campaign, Donald Trump gave off the impression that he perhaps had some issues with Mexico and Mexicans — calling them rapists and bad hombres, or suggesting people with Mexican heritage couldn’t be trusted as U.S. judges, or insisting that there needed to be a gigantic wall erected between Mexico and the U.S.
Then soon after Trump became president, his administration floated an idea for a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to pay for the wall. After Trump suggested in a January tweet that Mexico’s unwillingness to pay for the barrier made an upcoming meeting between the two countries pointless, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto went ahead and canceled his visit to Washington.
The tax on Mexican imports never materialized, but Trump’s anti-Mexico rhetoric and his notorious unpredictability have given new urgency to an old problem vexing Mexico’s tequila makers: Finding a large export market that isn’t the U.S.
Of the 196.7 million liters of tequila that Mexico exported in 2016, 160.9 million liters, or 82 percent, went to America, according to data from Mexico’s Tequila Regulating Council. Germany was a distant second with 2.7 percent of total exports.
“No one knows what’s going to happen [between Mexico and the U.S.],” said John Tichenor, global brand director at Tequila Herradura. “We have a wait-and-see attitude. Where’s it going to net out?”
While they’re waiting and seeing, tequila makers have their sights set on one gigantic alternative: China, the world’s second-largest economy and a top consumer of booze — though not of tequila, at least not yet. But the market would appear primed for more spirits; according to a 2014 World Health Organization study of Chinese drinking patterns, 69 percent of Chinese alcohol consumption consisted of spirits, while beer made up 28 percent and wine notched 3 percent.
Just how big is the Chinese market? The country’s national spirit, baijiu, is little known in the West — yet the vodka-like grain-based alcohol is the world’s best-selling spirit. In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that baijiu generated $23 billion in sales annually.
Still, even in a massive nation of enthusiastic spirits drinkers, tequila faces an uphill battle.
“When the Chinese see [tequila], we tell them it’s made from agave and that it’s coming from Mexico,” said Francisco Soltero, director of strategic planning at Patron Spirits. “Sometimes they say, ‘Where is Mexico? Is that a state in the United States?’”
In addition to overcoming a lack of familiarity with tequila — and even with Mexico — makers say they must also contend with Chinese regulations that have tended to keep the best tequilas out of the country. In 2008, China set methanol levels for imports that allowed lower-quality 51 percent agave tequilas to enter, but forbade premium 100 percent agave tequilas. (Methanol is produced as part of the distillation process.)
China modified its rules in 2013 and now allows some 100 percent agave tequila into the country, giving tequila makers hope that China could someday be a much more significant market.
“China has big potential,” Soltero said. “They are willing to try new spirits. They like to drink. Our experience, because we’ve had some business trips to China, is when they try tequila, they love it.”
By Elva Ramirez
China seeks to increase trade with Mexico
According to Notimex, China has become the leading producer of cell phones, laptops and other electronics, and more than 70 percent of this equipment sold in Mexico is manufactured in the Asian country.
“For many years, the “Made in China” label had a negative connotation among companies and consumers of Latin American origin”, said Andrea Narváez, director of the China HomeLife Fair.
“This perception was mainly due to the fact that many companies in the region usually put the price on quality in their imports, but today thousands of Chinese products are in great demand at a global level, since these combine innovation, competitive prices and other qualities”, she said.
Carlos Acosta, director of Canamexi, a consultancy specializing in imports and exports, said that the most imported Chinese products in Mexico are autoparts, optical instruments and electrical appliances.
“But also sporting goods, toys, carton and paper are among the Chinese products with the highest growth in exports”, highlighted Acosta at the presentation of China HomeLife, which will bring 750 major Chinese suppliers to Mexico from June 13 to June 15 .
Narvaéz said that for Mexico it could represent a unique opportunity to meet some of the top Chinese high quality manufacturers and suppliers.
“And due to the great quality, innovation and competitive price of made in China products, this nation has become a global leader, so it is not strange that many of the items we use every day are of Chinese origin”, Acosta reiterated.
International figures indicate that about 70 percent of the world’s cell phones are manufactured in China, where about 1.7 billion smart phones are produced per year.
“In 2014, the Asian giant led the total production of laptops with 90.6 percent of the world total. It also accounts for 80 percent of total air conditioning production, which is more than 17 times the average of other nations, and 80 percent of the solar panels sold worldwide”, Acosta said.
“The growing demand for Chinese goods is mainly due to the competitiveness of its prices, the great quality of their products, as well as their functionality”, he reiterated.
The Yucatan Times