Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Business

Remittances boost Mexico, but aren't No. 1 income

The statement

"Here's the fact: The No. 1 source of income into Mexico are Mexicans working here and sending the money back."

Kellyanne Conway, White House adviser, Jan. 27 on CBS This Morning

The ruling

This would be more appropriately considered an alternative fact. Conway does have a point that "remittances" (as they are officially called) from individuals in the United States constitute a significant boost to the Mexican economy, and they may be of enormous importance to the individual families on the receiving end.

However, they are far from the country's No. 1 source of income. (The White House did not respond to an inquiry.)

BBVA Bancomer, a Mexican economic forecaster, has projected that once all the data for 2016 is tallied, Mexicans will have sent $27 billion in remittances into Mexico in 2016 — a one-year record, and an increase of more than $2 billion over 2015. (Part of the reason for the uptick, the group says, was a surge in remittances in November with Trump's election, driven by widespread concerns that he may cut off remittances in the future.)

These totals are in line with U.S. government data.

However, we found at least two different types of money flows from the United States to Mexico that are bigger than remittances.

Ranking first is the money spent by United States consumers and companies on good old-fashioned Mexican exports — everything from manufactured goods to oil to agricultural products.

According to federal data, the United States in 2015 imported Mexican goods totaling $295 billion. That pot of money is more than 10 times bigger than the amount of remittances.

The biggest category of Mexican exports to the United States — auto vehicles and parts — was by itself north of $100 billion in 2015, according to the Census Bureau.

In addition, foreign direct investment by the United States totaled $28 billion in 2015 — a bit higher than the projected remittances for 2016 and clearly higher than the total of remittances for 2015, which was $24.8 billion. Foreign direct investment is defined as "investment from one country into another, normally by companies rather than governments, that involves establishing operations or acquiring tangible assets, including stakes in other businesses."

Three experts in U.S.-Mexico economic ties — Jeffrey J. Schott, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics; Mary C. King, a Portland State University economist; and Robert A. Blecker, an American University economist — concurred with our analysis of the data.

"Remittances are important — just far from No. 1," Blecker said. "And from a Mexican point of view, it's a huge disappointment that remittances are so high relative to foreign direct investment and tourism, which would be much more positive sources of income. Nevertheless, they are not the biggest — not nearly."

We rate the statement False.

Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com.

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