Washington: Despite pushback from US business and Mexico, President Donald Trump doubled down Friday on his threat to slap a 5% tariff on Mexican imports unless America's southern neighbor cracks down on Central American migrants trying to cross the US border.
US manufacturers said the tariff, set to take effect on June 10, would have devastating consequences on them and American consumers. US stocks tumbled on Wall Street in response to Trump's planned action.
"Imposing tariffs on goods from Mexico is exactly the wrong move," said Neil Bradley, executive vice president of the US Chamber of Commerce, which is exploring legal action in response to the tariffs. "These tariffs will be paid by American families and businesses without doing a thing to solve the very real problems at the border. Instead, Congress and the president need to work together to address the serious problems at the border."
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador dispatched his foreign secretary to Washington to try to negotiate a solution. He said social problems are not solved with coercive measures, but also seemed convinced that Trump just needed to be informed about all the steps Mexico has taken to slow illegal migration.
Mexico has stepped up raids on migrant caravans travelling through the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca this year. It has deported thousands of migrants and frustrated thousands more who wait endlessly for permits that would allow them to travel legally through Mexico.
Administration officials told reporters in a briefing call on Thursday evening that Mexico could prevent the tariffs from kicking in by securing its southern border with Guatemala, cracking down on criminal smuggling organisations, and entering into a "safe third country agreement" that would make it difficult for those who enter Mexico from other countries to claim asylum in the U.S.
"We fully believe they have the ability to stop people coming in from their southern border and if they're able to do that, these tariffs will either not go into place or will be removed after they go into place," said acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Trump said the percentage will gradually increase – up to 25% – until the migration problem is remedied.
"Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades," Trump said in a tweet. "Because of the Dems, our Immigration Laws are BAD. Mexico makes a FORTUNE from the US, have for decades, they can easily fix this problem. Time for them to finally do what must be done!"
Trump's decision showed the administration going to new lengths, and looking for new levers, to pressure Mexico to take action – even if those risk upending other policy priorities, like the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade deal that is the cornerstone of Trump's legislative agenda and seen as beneficial to his reelection effort.
Keeping the economy rolling also is critical to Trump's reelection, and business was not happy with the president's planned tariff on Mexican imports.
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