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Our newly inaugurated president is intent on keeping his campaign promise to build a “big, beautiful wall” along our southern border and have Mexico pay for it. At an estimated cost of $12 to $15 billion, the wall will be over 994 miles long. About 621 miles of fences or other barriers already exist. Intended to deter rapists, drug dealers, and illegal immigrants, the wall of contention has developed into a trade war with Mexico.

During his first week in office, President Trump triggered a fight with Mexico via Twitter. If Mexico wasn’t willing to foot the bill for the border wall, the Mexican president should cancel his scheduled visit to Washington.

“The US has a $60 billion dollar deficit with Mexico,” President Trump tweeted. “It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers of jobs and companies lost.”

On Thursday, January 26, after refusing to assume the cost of the wall, Mexico’s president cancelled his U.S. trip. The White House Press Secretary then announced that the U.S. would impose a 20 percent import tax on all goods from Mexico to cover the cost of our border expansion. Hours later, the Press Secretary said it was just “one idea.”

U.S. imports of goods from our top five trading partners reveal that Mexico, with a deficit of $58.8 billion, is not the major culprit for America’s job losses. China tops the list with a deficit of $391.3 billion. Japan and Germany place second and third with $62.4 billion and $59.6 billion, respectively.

If approved by the U.S. Congress and the World Trade Organization (WTO), President Trump’s proposal to levy a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports would mean increased prices of Mexican products on the U.S. market. In other words, Americans will be the ones paying for the wall…not Mexicans. American industries and consumers will pay more for vehicles; vehicular parts and accessories; engines and engine parts, computers and televisions; vegetables, fruits, and frozen juices; and much more. (Check out U.S. Imports from Mexico 2006-2015.)

International trade deals are complex negotiations that involve a wide range of industries for all parties involved. They are not real estate negotiations. Entire vulnerable populations, such as small farmers, can lose their means of livelihood with cheaper imports. We cannot threaten sovereign nations to trade with us under our terms and according to our rules. Import taxes and other non-tariff trade barriers are reciprocal. International rules of trade exist.

On Friday, January 27, President Trump spent an hour on the phone with his Mexican counterpart. According to the White House Press Release, the two national leaders had “a productive and constructive call regarding the bilateral relationship between the two countries…” But the damage had already spread beyond our southern border. Mexicans have begun boycotting American products. Leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) have condemned “the wall of infamy” as an “aggressive policy of persecuting migrants.”

Photo Credit: Map of US-Mexico Border Cities, Dallas News, July 2016