World Economy

Mexico Minister Warns Trump Over Tariffs

Young people wave colored flags reading “Peace” as they form a symbolic human wall.  Young people wave colored flags reading “Peace” as they form a symbolic human wall.

Mexico has a clear message for US President Donald Trump: “Don’t try tariffs. We’ll retaliate.”

“From Mexico’s point of view, opening tariffs will be a big mistake,” Mexico’s economic minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, told CNN on Friday. “It will be a step backwards, not a step forwards.”

The Trump administration has floated the idea of a 20% tariff on Mexican imports to the United States to pay for its proposed border wall. Trump has also threatened a 35% “big border tax” on companies that move jobs to Mexico.

Guajardo said that Mexico would be forced to respond. “If you’re talking about tariffs, specifically, obviously that is not the way to go because it will hurt both economies,” he said. “If anything is done on one side, it has to be compensated with actions on the other side.”

Guajardo is Mexico’s top negotiator on NAFTA, the free trade agreement among Canada, Mexico and the United States, which Trump wants to renegotiate. Guajardo was one of the architects of the deal in the 1990s. He knows it inside out.

Trump blames NAFTA for causing manufacturing jobs to pour out of the United States into Mexico. Nonpartisan congressional research concluded in 2015 that NAFTA did not trigger such an exodus of jobs.

Trump’s threat to tear up the trade agreement has brought the three countries back to the table 23 years later to renegotiate. They all agree NAFTA can be improved, but few leaders have said what a better deal would look like.

Guajardo said NAFTA has been a great deal for all three countries. He also emphasized that any new deal would have to include benefits for Mexico. He said anything less favorable would be impossible to sell to Mexico’s fragmented Senate, which would have to approve it.

“I can’t come back home with an agreement that will not be a win-win-win situation for the US, Canada and Mexico,” Guajardo said.

The three countries are expected to begin negotiations in May.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez gathered on the edge of the Rio Grande River on Friday to form a “human wall” to protest Trump’s plans for a wall between the countries, AP reported.

The demonstrators held aloft colorful swatches of cloth and waved to the residents of the neighboring city of El Paso, Texas.

Organizers said a friendly, human wall meant to join the two cities was better than a wall of steel or concrete to divide them.

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints