President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to impose an “economic penalty” on Mexico if it does not halt the flow of illegal drugs into US territory and to place 25 per cent tariffs on all Mexican-made cars that are shipped into the US if it stops deporting undocumented migrants who cross into Mexico from Guatemala.
“I am looking at an economic penalty for the $500 billion in illegal DRUGS that are shipped and smuggled through Mexico and across our Southern Border. Over 100,00 Americans die each year, sooo many families destroyed!” Trump tweeted, perhaps intending to say “100,000” if not for his typo.
Trump repeated the same message a short time later in remarks to reporters before departing for the US-Mexico border in California, but he offered no further details, Efe reported.
The warning comes one day after the US leader dialed back on his threat to close the border this week, saying instead that he will give Mexico a year to stop the flow of illegal drugs and control illegal migration to the US through its territory or else he will impose tariffs on cars made in Mexico and shipped to the US.
“We’re going to give them a one-year warning, and if the drugs don’t stop or largely stop, we’re going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, particularly cars. And if that doesn’t stop the drugs, we close the border,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday.
However, a few hours after mentioning this one-year period, Trump left open the possibility of taxing trade with Mexico before that period comes to an end.
The president insisted on that idea once again on Friday, saying that everything will depend on whether Mexico continues the “very good” work it has done over the past week, an allusion to that country’s deportation of undocumented immigrants who arrive at its border with Guatemala hoping to pass through Mexico and reach the US.
“If for any reason Mexico stops apprehending and bringing the illegals back to where they came from, the US will be forced to Tariff at 25 per cent all cars made in Mexico and shipped over the Border to us,” tweeted Trump.
“If that doesn’t work, which it will, I will close the Border,” he added, going on to say in a subsequent tweet that “This will supersede USMCA,” referring to the recently negotiated revised trade pact between the US, Mexico and Canada that replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The USMCA is still awaiting ratification, however.
Trump’s warning regarding the pact clashes with the stance of the Mexican government, which on Thursday emphasised the need to “keep immigration issues and trade issues separate.”
In his remarks to reporters, Trump denied that he had changed his opinion regarding closing the southern border and said that he could do so at any time, adding that he prefers to use tariffs to exert pressure on Mexico.
If he imposes those tariffs on Mexico, Trump said, this would mean that the US would “make money,” despite the fact that many companies manufacture auto parts on both sides of the frontier, and he predicted that those companies would “probably” come back to the US.
He said he was sure that the tariffs would work, just as — he claimed — they are working on steel. He said that the US steel industry is doing very well now, thanks to the tariffs he imposed, adding that the same situation prevails with aluminum.
Although there is no indication that the Mexican government has changed its immigration policy in the past week, Trump insisted that it is detaining and deporting undocumented migrants on its border “for the first time in decades.”
Over the past four days, Mexico has been doing a “very, very good” job, Trump said.