There was something for both sides in the cement trade agreement that U.S. and Mexican officials signed March 6. The agreement ends a 16-year dispute and lets Mexico export 3Mt annually to the US. That’s a 50 per cent jump over 2005’s level of 1.92Mt, the Commerce Dept. reports. With last year’s hurricanes in mind, the pact allows exports of up to 200,000 additional tonnes if the US determines they are needed to respond to a storm or other disaster.
Mexico’s shipments will apparently be split among eight regions (table). In the initial 12-month period beginning April 3, Arizona receives the largest allocation. Hurricane-ravaged Louisiana gets 280,000t. Shares will be adjusted in the next two years.
“The only real solution is to get more domestic production,” says Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist. Hurdles tend to be local, he says. “Nobody wants cement plants in their backyard or down the road in the next county even,” he says. US producers claim some headway, with permits to expand capacity by more than 15 per cent through 2009, says the Southern Tier Cement Committee, a group of 23 US companies. The expansion’s estimated price tag is US$3bn.