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Mexico has demonstrated a strong commitment to ensuring that its laws and regulations are of high quality. This concern for regulatory quality includes technical regulations (known as NOMs), instruments that set specifications for products, services and, at times, production processes. Mexico’s efforts have centred on the early stages of the “regulatory lifecycle”, targeting mainly the design of laws and regulations. Nonetheless, achieving the desired outcomes from NOMs requires proper enforcement. Currently, a number of challenges create a gap between the development of technical regulations and their implementation and enforcement. This review identifies areas for improvement based on a thorough assessment of the implementation of technical regulations in Mexico. Implementation takes place through two complementary sets of instruments: conformity assessment, carried out to demonstrate compliance with NOMs; and regulatory inspections, including market surveillance activities, which may focus on both the production stage and/or on products available in the market.

Mexico has put in place a strong framework around NOMs led by the Ministry of Economy through its General Bureau of Standards (DGN). In addition, the National Commission for Regulatory Improvement (CONAMER) plays a key role in overseeing the quality of regulations. Numerous additional stakeholders, including public sectoral bodies, technical entities, and businesses in a range of industry sectors, are involved in the regulatory delivery of NOMs. A set of legal instruments spearheaded by the Federal Law on Metrology and Standardisation (Ley General sobre Metrología y Normalización, LFMN) are the backbone of Mexico’s system for NOMs. Still, fragmentation across different legal sector-specific regimes means there is no cohesive and coherent vision to promote compliance with NOMs and strengthen the national quality infrastructure, the system comprising metrology, standardisation, accreditation, conformity assessment, and market surveillance that ensures that the requirements set under NOMs are fulfilled.

Mexico recognises a range of conformity assessment procedures that are critical to effectively connect the requirements set in NOMs with the products and services available in the market. It also has an accreditation set-up to provide an extra layer of assurance over the impartiality and capabilities of conformity assessment bodies to perform their functions. However, there are a number of sector-specific approaches to conformity assessment and no common methodology for developing these procedures. Regulators have limited guidance to select conformity assessment procedures that effectively account for the complexity and level of risk that a NOM is to manage, and/or ensure that suitable infrastructure is in place to achieve the objectives of a NOM.

Regulatory inspections, including market surveillance, are essential for making sure that products, services and production processes (when applicable) continue to meet the requirements set under technical regulations. Regulatory inspections of technical regulations are undertaken by the government authority responsible for the NOM. While Mexico has successfully built trust in some sectors through the reliable and trustworthy surveillance of NOMs, particularly in export markets, the situation varies considerably across regulatory sectors. A number of significant challenges remain in enhancing the effectiveness of inspections, particularly in managing and targeting resources and improving co-ordination and data sharing among agencies.

Based on an analysis of the framework and implementation policies and practices around NOMs, the review identifies three broad areas for improvement. First, Mexico could strengthen its technical regulation framework by systematically including implementation needs in the design stage of NOMs and by making better use of the DGN as overseer and co-ordinator of the system. Simultaneously, the limitations in the conformity assessment infrastructure could be addressed, including by providing guidance documents on the design of conformity assessment procedures. Finally, Mexico may wish to invest in developing a more coherent, risk- and evidence-based approach to regulatory inspections.

Recent and ongoing legislative initiatives to reform the technical regulation system and regulatory inspections are creating the momentum for Mexico to strengthen the implementation of NOMs. These initiatives could be accompanied by measures to promote co-ordination among relevant authorities and actors and provide guidance on a risk-based approach to conformity assessment and inspection. Improving the regulatory delivery of NOMs will require a shift in the enforcement culture among all parties. This review provides avenues for possible solutions and suggests some critical elements of a whole-of-government and systemic approach to implementing technical regulations.

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