On Thursday, Donald Trump got on the horn and tweeted the U.S. into another trade war, this time with southern neighbor Mexico. Trump announced that in 10 days’ time he will impose a 5 percent tariff on goods coming into the U.S. from Mexico as punishment for what he sees as insufficient help in stopping the flow of undocumented immigrants into the country.
Needless to say, this seems like a political stunt that will surely not have the outcome Trump is demanding and may never even come to fruition. Not really anyway. Mexico, after all, was the second largest importer of goods into the U.S. last year, totaling $346.5 billion in trade, and the largest importer of agricultural products. Americans will, of course, still need fresh fruit and vegetables imported daily from Mexico and would surely really like beer and wine that comes along with it.
The White House issued a statement expounding upon Trump’s tweets:
To address the emergency at the Southern Border, I am invoking the authorities granted to me by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Accordingly, starting on June 10, 2019, the United States will impose a 5 percent Tariff on all goods imported from Mexico. If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the Tariffs will be removed.
If the crisis persists, however, the Tariffs will be raised to 10 percent on July 1, 2019. Similarly, if Mexico still has not taken action to dramatically reduce or eliminate the number of illegal aliens crossing its territory into the United States, Tariffs will be increased to 15 percent on August 1, 2019, to 20 percent on September 1, 2019, and to 25 percent on October 1, 2019.
Tariffs will permanently remain at the 25 percent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory. Workers who come to our country through the legal admissions process, including those working on farms, ranches, and in other businesses, will be allowed easy passage.
The 5 percent threshold seems essentially arbitrary, as is the sweeping demand that Mexico put an end to illegal immigration to the U.S. Since the barometer for success is up to Trump’s “sole discretion and judgment,” who knows how this ends. Surreally, the proposed move comes as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is trying to get updates to the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress. Earlier in the evening, Trump tweeted out a video that purported to show undocumented immigrants crossing the border.