On Wednesday, as Donald Trump was settling in for a couple nights at his golf resort in Ireland, Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Mexico’s foreign minister in an attempt to avert tariffs that Trump has threatened to slap on the nation’s third-largest trading partner.
The meeting was not a success, but, as Trump tweeted Thursday morning Ireland time, talks will resume today and if no agreement is reached, 5 percent tariffs on all Mexican imports will go into effect this coming Monday.
With just four days until Trump’s deadline, here’s what you need to know about the tariffs on Mexico.
Why is Trump threatening tariffs?
It’s all about immigration. Trump first made the threat on May 30, when he tweeted that a 5 percent tariff “on all goods coming” into the U.S. from Mexico would go into effect on June 10 and increase each month “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP.” The plan calls for the tariffs to hit 10 percent on July 1 “if the crisis persists,” and rise by 5 percent each month until they hit 25 percent in October.
Trump is demanding that Mexico increase security at its border with Guatemala, crack down on gangs that ferry migrants across the border, and take in all of the asylum seekers that would otherwise make a claim in the U.S. The threat comes at a time when border crossings are surging. In May, U.S. border officers detained more than 144,000 migrants, the highest monthly level since 2006.
Will the tariffs actually be imposed?
It’s a question worth asking given Trump’s tendency to puff out his chest only to back down. But, as he’s shown before, Trump will sometimes follow through on his threats.
In Wednesday’s meeting, officials from Mexico tried to convince Pence and Pompeo that they’re doing more to crack down on migrants entering their country. As Reuters reported Thursday, Mexican police have increased their presence, and their hostility to migrants, at the country’s southern border with Guatemala. But Pence and Pompeo reportedly came away from the meeting believing that Mexico is still not doing enough. That’s easy to believe, given the demands the U.S. is making. Mexico can’t solve the migrant crisis in a week, nor can it change the conditions in Central America’s Northern Triangle.
Still, Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, is confident a deal to avert the tariffs can be reached. “We have the opportunity to share our point of view, explain the Mexican position that we are following regarding this issue, and tomorrow we are going to follow the talks,” he said.
What would these tariffs mean for U.S. consumers?
Higher prices on “cars, TVs, bluejeans, beer, fresh vegetables and other products,” according to the Times. In 2018, the U.S. imported $346.5 billion in goods from Mexico. So a 5 percent tariffs would mean a $17 million tax increase.
Mexico will also retaliate with tariffs of its own, a tit-for-tat that played out last year after the U.S. imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. Indeed, Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has already put together a list of potential products that would be hit with Mexican tariffs.
Who’s opposed to these tariffs?
A long list of people, including business leaders, economists, Democrats and, perhaps most importantly, Republicans. Across the board, these groups think tariffs would be terrible for consumers and the economy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on FOX News Radio this week that there’s a “lack of enthusiasm among Senate Republicans for what would amount to a tax increase, frankly, on working-class people.”
Texas Republicans have been particularly vocal in their opposition. Congressman Dan Crenshaw said, “Tariffs are bad for our companies, they’re bad for consumers, and they’re bad for our supply chains.” While Senator Ted Cruz said, “There’s no reason that millions of farmers and ranchers and manufacturers and small businesses in Texas should pay the price and should face $30 billion in new taxes. That would be a mistake.”
Who supports them?
It’s hard to say if anyone outside of the Trump administration does. Even those who haven’t come out against the tariffs are only offering tepid endorsements. Senator Thom Tillis, for example, said his colleagues should not publicly oppose the tariffs because that might make it hard to strike a deal to avert them.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made a similar point to reporters Wednesday. “We should empower the president to be able to have a strong hand in negotiation. If members here were undercutting him, it only hurts. We should be united so there won’t be tariffs,” he said.