Mexico is now on the clock to cut illegal immigration dramatically and the White House’s acting chief of staff said Sunday he expects President Trump will follow through on his threat to slap an across-the-board 5% tariff on Mexican goods next week.
Others doubt it’ll get to that point, saying they view Mr. Trump’s tariffs as more of a negotiating threat — and one that lacks very much support even among congressional Republicans and the anti-tax and business groups that otherwise are strong supporters of the president.
But Mr. Trump said Sunday he’s committed to making Mexico’s leaders squeal unless they fix a problem he said has been festering for far too long.
“People have been saying for years that we should talk to Mexico. The problem is that Mexico is an ‘abuser’ of the United States, taking but never giving. It has been this way for decades,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Mr. Trump surprised both American and Mexican leaders with his announcement of the tariffs last week, saying he’ll raise them until Mexico meets unspecified goals for curtailing the flow of people traversing its territory en route to the U.S.
Under the plan, the first 5% tariff will hit on June 10, covering every import from Mexico. The rate will climb to 10% in July and grow 5% more each month until it reaches 25%.
Either Mexico stops the “invasion” of migrants, cartels and traffickers, “which they can do very easily,” the president said, or else the tariffs will start to bite.
“America has had enough!” Mr. Trump said.
Some Republican allies said the White House plan is a misuse of tariff authority, while others fear an increase in the cost of avocados, Mexican beer and other goods, since the cost of tariffs are often passed to American consumers.
Auto makers are particularly worried, citing the impact on higher costs along their supply chain.
Mexico dispatched a delegation to Washington to talk about the issue.
“Problem is, they’ve been ‘talking’ for 25 years. We want action, not talk,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, said he doesn’t think Mr. Trump will actually go through with the tariffs, saying that while the president is a tough negotiator, he is also a smart one.
“I wouldn’t call him risk-adverse — he’s been known to play with fire, but not live hand grenades,” Mr. Kennedy said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” saying a 25% tariff on Mexico could tank the U.S. economy. “I think the president knows that and I don’t think he’ll do it.”
Yet White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Mr. Trump is “deadly serious” about the idea and that he expects the first wave of levies to take effect.
Mr. Mulvaney, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said consumers will turn to American-made goods, if prices on Mexican imports rise, and that Americans are bearing costs from illegal immigration, anyway, so it’s worth taking a stand.
“We’ve been talking about it for months,” Mr. Mulvaney said of the situation on the southern border.
Mr. Mulvaney said Mexican officials should mimic Mr. Trump’s border tactics to thwart the steady tide of migrants from Central America.
“They can secure their southern border, their southern border with Guatemala,” Mr. Mulvaney said.
Likewise Kevin K. McAleenan, acting Homeland Security secretary, said he wants to see Mexico interdict more people at its southern border.
He also wants to crack down on traffickers operating in Mexico, and reach an agreement that allows more migrants to apply for asylum in the U.S. from Mexican territory.
People fleeing Central America would be “safe in Mexico. They’re able to apply in a full and fair proceeding,” Mr. McAleenan told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
He downplayed the idea that tariffs will be counterproductive, as Mexicans struggle economically, saying the U.S. needs Mexican officials “at the table” and ready to do more. He cited the crossing of 1,000 migrants early Wednesday from Juarez to El Paso, Texas, with no action from Mexican authorities.
“These crossings into Mexico are happening on a 150-mile stretch of their southern border. This is a controllable area,” he told CNN. “We need them to put their authorities down there and interdict these folks before they make this route all the way to the U.S.”
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