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A Maquiladora, also known as a maquila or a twin plant, is a manufacturing facility primarily located in Mexico. These factories import materials and equipment on a duty-free and tariff-free basis for assembly, processing, or manufacturing purposes. The finished products are then usually exported back to the country that provided the raw materials, taking advantage of lower labor costs in Mexico.


The phonetics of the keyword “Maquiladora” can be represented as: /mä-kē-lə-ˈdȯr-ə/

Key Takeaways

  1. Maquiladoras are foreign-owned manufacturing companies that operate primarily in Mexico, taking advantage of low labor costs and favorable trade regulations.
  2. They play a significant role in the Mexican economy by providing employment opportunities, fostering industrial development, and facilitating export-oriented growth.
  3. Despite their economic benefits, Maquiladoras have faced criticism for their environmental impact, low wages, and poor working conditions for employees.


The term “Maquiladora” is important in business and finance because it refers to a type of manufacturing operation established in Mexico by foreign companies, often from the United States or other developed economies. Maquiladoras enable companies to capitalize on lower labor costs and other comparative advantages while still maintaining close access to the larger North American market, offering cost-efficient manufacturing solutions for products ranging from automobiles to electronics. This arrangement also promotes international trade, economic growth, and job creation within Mexico, benefitting both the foreign company and the local economy. However, issues such as labor rights, working conditions, and environmental concerns have arisen in connection with maquiladoras, necessitating a clear understanding of their role in global business strategies and ethical considerations.


The Maquiladora system serves as an essential aspect of promoting economic development and fostering strong bilateral trading relationships between countries, particularly between the United States and Mexico. Operating under the maquiladora model, manufacturing companies, predominantly from the United States, establish production facilities in Mexico, where they import raw materials mainly duty-free, assemble or process them, and then export the finished products back to the United States or other countries. This arrangement allows companies to capitalize on Mexico’s lower labor costs, reduced operational expenses, and laxer regulations, ultimately making their businesses more competitive and efficient in the global market.

Furthermore, maquiladoras play a crucial role in stimulating employment opportunities and fostering regional development in Mexico. As a direct consequence of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its successor, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a substantial number of manufacturing jobs shifted from the United States to Mexico, creating a surge in economic activities linked to these factories. While concerns exist regarding the working conditions and potential environmental impacts of these facilities, the maquiladora system continues to be a vital component in the economic dynamics of the United States and Mexico, underscoring the inherent interconnectedness of their respective economies.


A maquiladora is a factory or manufacturing operation in Mexico that operates under preferential tariff programs established and administered by the United States and Mexican governments. These factories import raw materials or components from the US, assemble or process them in Mexico, and then export the finished or semi-finished products back to the US or other countries. Here are three real-world examples of maquiladora businesses in Mexico:

1. Foxconn: Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, is well-known for producing iPhones and other consumer electronics for companies such as Apple, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard. They operate several maquiladora facilities in Mexico that are engaged in assembling electronics, including laptops and televisions.

2. Lear Corporation: Lear Corporation is an American automotive supplier that specializes in manufacturing automotive seating and electrical distribution systems for car manufacturers around the world. In Mexico, Lear operates several maquiladora plants where they produce goods such as car seats and wiring harnesses, which are then exported to the US and other countries.

3. Sanmina: Sanmina is an American electronics manufacturing services provider that operates maquiladoras in Mexico. These factories assemble high-tech products such as circuit boards, medical devices, and telecommunication equipment for a diverse range of industries. The finished products are exported to various countries, including the United States, where they are integrated into final products or sold as standalone items.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Maquiladora?

A Maquiladora, also known as a maquila or twin plant, is a foreign-run manufacturing plant, primarily from the United States, that operates in Mexico. These plants import raw materials and machinery duty-free, then process, assemble, and export the finished products back to the originating country.

What is the origin of the term Maquiladora?

The term Maquiladora originated from the Spanish word “maquila,” which refers to an ancient practice of grinding grain for others in exchange for a portion of the finished product as payment. Maquiladoras were first established in the 1960s as part of Mexico’s Border Industrialization Program.

What is the objective of a Maquiladora?

The main objective of Maquiladoras is to allow foreign enterprises to take advantage of lower labor costs, reduced tariffs, and beneficial tax incentives in Mexico to produce goods more affordably and competitively.

How do Maquiladoras impact the Mexican economy?

Maquiladoras have both positive and negative impacts on the Mexican economy. Positively, these plants create numerous employment opportunities, generate foreign investment, and contribute to economic growth. Negatively, Maquiladoras have been criticized for promoting a low-wage economy, contributing to environmental degradation, and exploiting workers.

Are there specific industries that commonly use Maquiladoras?

Yes, Maquiladoras are commonly found in industries such as automotive, aerospace, textiles, electronics, and medical devices. The plants produce a wide range of products, including car parts, aircraft components, consumer electronics, and medical equipment.

How are Maquiladoras regulated?

Maquiladoras are regulated by Mexican laws and the maquiladora’s home country’s regulations. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has been replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), also impacts the operation of Maquiladoras.

Have Maquiladoras faced any controversies?

Yes, Maquiladoras have faced controversies over the years, including low wages, substandard working conditions, worker exploitation, and a lack of environmental regulation. In response, there have been efforts to improve worker rights, increase wages, and enforce stricter environmental regulations.

Can a Maquiladora be wholly owned by a foreign company?

Yes, Maquiladoras can be wholly owned by a foreign company, but they are required to have a Mexican legal representative to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations.

How do Maquiladoras affect trade between the United States and Mexico?

Maquiladoras play a significant role in US-Mexico trade relations. By allowing US companies to produce goods at a lower cost, it has generated increased manufacturing collaboration between the two countries, thereby strengthening their trade relationship.

Related Finance Terms

  • Free Trade Zone
  • Export Processing
  • Offshore Manufacturing
  • NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement)
  • Global Supply Chain Management

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