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Shipping from China to Mexico

by | Apr 30, 2024 | Blog Post

There has been a sharp uptick in shipping from China to Mexico. Some of that increase is due to Mexico’s rising status as a global production hub. Some is likely linked to attempts to create a “back door” route into the US to avoid high US tariffs on China imports. Either way, more and more companies are looking for the most efficient ways to route cargo from China to Mexico. This article explores some of the important nuances of China to Mexico shipping.


Why the growth in China to Mexico shipping?

According to Xeneta, a leading ocean freight benchmarking platform, China-to-Mexico is probably the fastest growing trade lane in the world.  The 117,000 TEUs shipped in this lane in January 2024 compares to just 73,000 TEUs shipped in January 2023 (Container Trade Statistics). This massive increase could be evidence of companies attempting to avoid high US tariffs on direct Chinese imports.

Of course, Mexico has been gaining steam for many years as a production hub in its own right. For many of the firms that have built factories there – including electronics, aerospace, and automotive companies – component materials are still sourced from China, creating a need for reliable shipping from China to Mexico.

The Mexican government encourages manufacturing growth in a number of ways, including the IMMEX program, formally known as the IMMEX maquiladora program. This program allows overseas manufacturers to import raw materials and components into Mexico, tax and duty free, under the condition that 100% of all finished goods will be exported out of Mexico within a certain time frame. It helps to work with global forwarders that are familiar with IMMEX and the processes for bringing goods into Mexico tax and duty free.


The pain points of China to Mexico shipping

Companies shipping from China to Mexico for the first time can encounter some frustrations. One is the language barrier. Mandarin is not a common second language in Mexico, and vice versa.

There’s also a lack of understanding of cross-border transport protocols, how duties are assessed, and what these costs will be.

If shipments route from China through the US and then into Mexico, shippers need to understand how cargo is kept in bond until final delivery in order to avoid any US fees. This may or may not include the use of a free trade zone or bonded warehouse. To address these open questions, companies turn to global forwarders like Dimerco to educate them about available routing options and then coordinate shipping and logistics requirements.


What’s the best route for China-to-Mexico cargo? It depends.

There are direct shipping options from China to Mexico, both air and ocean. But options are limited and, in many cases, it makes more sense to route cargo through the US and use cross-border trucking to make the final delivery into Mexico.

The right choice is mostly dependent on the final consignee’s location. For container freight, a factory in Juarez, Mexico is quite far from the closest Mexico port so it’s smarter to bring the goods into the US and arrange cross-border trucking from El Paso into Juarez.

On the other hand, for shipments to a factory close to Mexico’s top port in Manzanillo, it would make sense to route containers directly.

Shippers that rely on their freight forwarder to handle door-to-door shipments from China to global locations will find that this takes a couple of extra steps in Mexico. That’s because most consignees have their own designated customs broker to handle customs clearance and duty payments. So popular purchase terms like Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) often do not work because the forwarder can’t directly arrange clearance. In such cases, it may be wise to adjust the trade term to DAP when moving goods into Mexico. Your freight forwarder can advise you further depending on your situation.

If a forwarder, like Dimerco, can get consignee information from the shipper, it is possible to verify and determine if they are using their own customs broker or if they would permit Dimerco to clear the shipment for them. This is an extra step that can’t be ignored. In Mexico, it’s more difficult to switch customs brokers than in the US.

Let’s be clear here. Your global forwarder can still be a valuable resource in arranging your door-to-door shipments from China to Mexico. They just need certain data to advise you appropriately.

To get the most accurate quote for a China to Mexico shipping, it helps to provide the forwarder with all of the information in the accompanying chart.

China to Mexico shipping quote

Now let’s look at specific scenarios for both air and ocean shipments.


Air freight shipping from China to Mexico

The accompanying chart shows the major airports in Mexico and where they are located. The newest is the Felipe Angeles International Cargo Airport outside Mexico City, which opened in 2023.

China to Mexico air freight


If the consignee is located near an inland city far from the US border, like Mexico City, it’s usually best to consider a direct flight from China into Mexico.

Consignee locations closer to the border like Reynosa or Nuevo Laredo, might benefit from frequent flights from China into Dallas, Houston or El Paso. From the US airport, a freight forwarder like Dimerco can arrange to have cargo moved, in bond, into Mexico. That includes coordination with designated customs brokers at the border and the trucking companies that will do the final delivery. Many companies take advantage of Mexico’s IMMEX program to bring raw materials, components, and equipment into the country duty and tax-free if the goods are used in the production of merchandise that will be exported within a government-mandated time frame.

Dimerco has strong experience managing cross-border shipments from the US into Mexico. This includes alliances with partners in Mexico that speak the language, understand customs processes, and know the pitfalls and how to avoid delays in customs and on the road.

If air freight capacity is tight, indirect air service through the US into Mexico is available to airports throughout Mexico.

For instance, Dimerco’s express multimodal service delivers from China to Mexico in 6 to 8 days, door to door, through the US. Here’s how it works.

Dimerco multimodal shipping China to Mexico


Customers take advantage of Dimerco’s regular consolidated flights from China to LA and Dallas. Upon touchdown, Dimerco arranges for a cross-border bonded trucking service, where team drivers travel non-stop and only on highways to keep cargo safe.

In Mexico, cargo is delivered to the international airport closest to the consignee, where it is treated by Customs as a China-to-Mexico, airport-to-airport shipment.

Dimerco simplifies and expedites customs clearance before transferring cargo to a standard truck and transporting it to the consignee.

Although this China-to-Mexico, trans-shipment solution via the U.S. increases transit time by 2–3 days compared to direct air freight service into Mexico, it is 30–40% cheaper and is a practical response to limited direct air freight service from China to Mexico.


Container shipping from China to Mexico

The strategy for ocean shipping from China to Mexico is similar to air freight in that if the consignee’s location is far from the port in Mexico it makes sense to move containers through the US and then arrange cross-border trucking into Mexico.

As noted earlier, for an inland city like Juarez located on the US border, the quickest and most cost-effective solution would be to route the container through Los Angeles and either truck or rail it to El Paso for cross-border trucking to the final consignee. If customers wanted to use our designated partners for customs clearance and trucking, we would need to first contact the consignee to confirm this arrangement and make sure they accept and authorize our trucking partner to deliver to their facility.


Are you shipping from Asia into Mexico? Help is available.

China to Mexico is one of the world’s hottest trade lanes. But the nuances of Mexico’s customs and transportation requirements make it important to work with a global forwarder, like Dimerco, that regularly coordinates shipments from China to Mexico, either direct or via the US.

If you need to efficiently move your freight from China, or anywhere in Asia, into Mexico, speak to a Dimerco specialist today.

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