Gasoline, Mexico's largest product import, is a case in point. Between 2003 and 2011, Mexico's imports of U.S. gasoline grew at roughly the same rate, in percentage terms, as its total gasoline imports, about tripling during that period. (Trade statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration differ slightly from IEA data, but not enough for the difference to be meaningful. For the sake of consistency, IEA data are used throughout this analysis.) But the growth paths followed by U.S. exports to Mexico and by Mexico's overall imports were far from identical. Between 2003 and 2008, it was Europe, not the United States, that captured most of Mexico's incremental gasoline import requirements. Over that period, European exports expanded their exports to Mexico by 115,000 bbl/d while U.S. exports to Mexico rose by just slightly over 40,000 bbl/d. Through 2007, U.S. refiners had little excess capacity for export markets. Beginning in 2008, things changed; while Mexican imports expanded by a further 75,000 bbl/d between 2008 and 2011, European exports to Mexico swung into decline, contracting by nearly 60,000 bbl/d. At the same time, U.S. exports to Mexico surged by almost 150,000 bb/d, roughly twice Mexico's incremental import volumes as U.S. refiners with surplus capacity found economic opportunities in Mexico. Thus, U.S. exports not only met all of Mexico's incremental imports, but also filled the gap left by diminishing European exports (Figure 1). Meanwhile, Mexican gasoline demand growth slowed from a gain of nearly 190,000 bbl/d between 2003 and 2008 (about one third) to a near halt, IEA assessments indicate. Thus, while Mexico's demand growth between 2003 and 2008 explains import growth almost barrel for barrel, thereafter import growth stems almost entirely from diminishing refinery production, not stronger demand. In 2011, Mexico's output of gasoline fell below gross imports (Figure 2).
The story is slightly different for distillate, though there, too, U.S. export growth did come in part at the expense of other supply sources, albeit more marginal ones. Mexican distillate imports have been on a roller coaster, growing by 55,000 bbl/d (more than 375%) between 2004 and 2007, only to fall back by more than 10,000 bbl/d during the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and later resume with a vengeance, adding nearly 80,000 bbl/d in the last two years. During the first growth stage, U.S. exports to Mexico gained nearly 40,000 bbl/d, but failed to capture Mexico's full import increment, allowing Japan to emerge as Mexico's second largest supplier, with exports of almost 15,000 bbl/d in 2007. The crash of 2008-2009 nearly wiped out Japan's exports to Mexico, though U.S. exports managed to creep up marginally despite overall falling Mexican imports. As Mexican distillate import growth subsequently recovered, not only did U.S. suppliers capture all incremental requirements, but they also displaced additional volumes from Latin America and European member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), while Japanese exports failed to rebound. Having gone from 100% of total distillate imports in 2001 to 63% in 2004 and 68% in 2007, U.S. shipments to Mexico continued to gain market share, reaching 86% of imports in 2009 and 97% in 2011.