Sunday, June 16, 2024

US and Chinese companies compete for Mexican customs contract

Mexico’s Defense Ministry (Sedena) has received bids for a significant customs equipment purchase from both U.S. and Chinese companies. 

Sedena held a tender to select a supplier for x-ray machines and inspection equipment at 21 border customs stations, 19 of which are in the north and 2 in the south. Sedena requested 54 machines for the non-intrusive inspection of cargo vehicles, 87 for the inspection of light vehicles, 18 for the inspection of empty cargo vehicles, seven for railway cargo and four for passenger buses.

The results of the public tender were originally to be published on Jan. 30, then were postponed until Feb. 3 according to Forbes México. According to Reforma newspaper, the announcement will be made on Mar. 6. 

Reports about the amounts of the bids vary, but Reforma reports that the Chinese company Nuctech, in partnership with the Mexican companies Cruant and LTP Global Software, made the lowest offer, at 11.7 billion pesos (US $630.5 million) and the U.S. firm Rapiscan Systems bid  13.5 billion pesos (US $727.5 million). 

While seven companies participated in the bidding process, only Nuctech and Rapiscan Systems met all of the requirements. Reforma also reported that some of the companies involved in the tender complained that the project lacked clarity. 

The installation of the new equipment is scheduled for Nov. 30. 

Sedena took full control of Mexico’s customs procedures in May of last year, and has since started updating its inspection systems. Sedena emphasized that the new scanning systems and equipment will strengthen its ability to detect contraband, including drugs and weapons. 

According to leaked Sedena documents accessed by the non-governmental organization Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity and reported by The Washington Post, the U.S. government raised concerns about Nuctech’s equipment being installed along the United States – Mexico border in May of last year.

U.S. officials noted that the company has strong ties to the Chinese government and that the scanning equipment manufactured by the company could give China access to information about the products entering the United States. The U.S. government also noted that the equipment does not meet quality control standards. 

The equipment Mexico installs along its northern border must be compatible with those of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which has banned the use of Chinese technology. 

“We assess that it is very likely that Nuctech has a close and long-standing relationship with the Chinese government to promote Nuctech’s business interests and develop scanning and detection systems on behalf of the Chinese government,” the U.S. government said in the letter. 

Nuctech denies these claims, stating that it protects the data of its users. 

The U.S. has also banned equipment from Chinese technology companies Huawei and ZTE, warning that it could be used to gather information about the country, and has urged Mexico to purchase scanning equipment from U.S. companies. 

With reports from Forbes México and Reforma

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