President Trump is running the United States “like a mob boss,” one South Texas congressman said Friday. A University of Texas Rio Grande Valley economist said the president is “shooting himself in the foot.” An economic development chief was so frustrated at the entire situation on the border that he almost wants to vote for the opponent of every incumbent up and down the 2020 ballot.
This all coming after a Thursday night tweet where Trump announced, to the surprise of many Republicans in Congress, that on June 10 the U.S. would be imposing “a 5% tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP. The Tariff will gradually increase until the illegal immigration problem is remedied, at which time the Tariffs will be removed.”
The trade community in the Rio Grande Valley has had to deal with headwinds from the White House since late March, when Trump threatened to close the border, followed by the reassignment of hundreds of customs officers from international bridges, leading to long lines at border crossings. Now, another obstacle has appeared.
“Trump’s declaration of 5% tariffs on products imported from Mexico as a migration bargaining chip is clearly insane, but in no way surprising,” said U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, who likened Trump to a mob boss in a statement. “This is one more erratic and nonsensical action from an accidental President whose approach to problem solving is to create a problem to extort a solution.”
Salvador Contreras, an economist who runs the border economics program at UTRGV, summed it up quickly: “It’s bad, it’s bad.”
“It affects investment decisions and it’s going to disrupt supply chains,” Contreras said. He added: “It doesn’t look good. And it’s worse for Mexico.”
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in a two-page letter responding to Trump’s announcement, attempted to give Trump a brief history lesson about collaboration between the two countries.
“America first is a fallacy,” Lopez Obrador said, referring to Trump’s initiative of trying to place a priority on the homeland. He added: “We think that all conflicts in bilateral relationships must be resolved with dialogue, with communication.”
Trump’s communication with Congress on the tariffs was without warning, U.S. Senators said, and many Republicans disagreed with the 5% tariff on Mexican goods.
“Senator Cornyn supports the President’s commitment to securing our border, but he opposes this across-the-board tariff which will disproportionately hurt Texas,” according to an aide for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX.
Gov. Greg Abbott, also a Republican though not in Congress, weighed in with a statement similar in tone.
“The crisis at our southern border is at a breaking point,” Abbott said in a statement. “I share the President’s deep frustration with Congress’ inaction to step up and fix this problem. This crisis is worsening by the day, and Texas is being left to deal with the consequences. Congress’ refusal to address the crisis is unacceptable. I’ve previously stated my opposition to tariffs due to the harm it would inflict on the Texas economy, and I remain opposed today.
“Nevertheless, the President is trying to address this emergency. Now, Congress must do its job and start passing laws to fix our broken immigration system.”
Keith Patridge, president of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, also said the blame lies with Congress.
“Look at the situation that it’s creating in McAllen,” Patridge said, referring to the migrant relief center in the city. “The bottom line, this whole thing could be settled in less than an hour if Congress got off their rear ends and did their job.”
This all comes at a time when the U.S., Mexico and Canada are trying to initiate a new North American Free Trade Agreement, called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which the leaders of the three countries signed late last year at a summit in Argentina. But Congress has not yet authorized the new trilateral pact.
Vela’s colleague, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, issued a more tame statement, but still strongly opposes the move.
“Mexico is our friend and ally. Our economies are intrinsically intertwined. Levying tariffs against our most important trading partner would be irresponsible, fail to achieve the president’s desired result, and hurt American consumers in the process,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “Earlier this week, the Mexican government announced its commitment to creating opportunity in the Northern Triangle as a means of deterring outmigration. Instead of pledging our support, the president has once again turned to punitive and coercive policies that are a far cry from addressing the root causes of the real issues at hand and would effectively invalidate our commitments. Disappointment does not even begin to describe it.”
Vela went further.
“His administration’s recent decision to strip customs officers of their usual roles as caretakers of the flow of legitimate trade and travel, at our southern border has drastically stymied critical international business traffic,” Vela said. “This latest tariff decision is equally drastic and makes no sense. Congress should impeach Trump now, and if we don’t, the voters will in November 2020.”