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Republican lawmakers and business groups criticize Trump’s Mexico tariff threat

May 31, 2019

On Friday, several Republican lawmakers as well as major business groups criticized President Donald Trump’s threat to impose a 5% tariff on Mexican imports beginning in June, warning that it would hurt the U.S. and Mexican economies and drive a wedge between the two nations in future trade talks.

President Trump has threatened the levy tariffs starting on June 10 and increasing in increments of 5% until resting at 25% unless the Mexican government curbs the flow of migrants illegally crossing into the United States.

According to sources, White House policy adviser Stephen Miller spearheaded this tariff strategy, after informing President Trump of the surge in border crossings in the last few months.

According to sources, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are opposed to Trump’s proposed tariffs on Mexico.

In a press conference call on Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it is exploring all legal options, which includes filing a lawsuit against the White House.

Senator Joni Ernst (R-Ia.) said, “If the president goes through with this, I’m afraid progress to get this trade agreement across the finish line will be stifled. While I support the need for comprehensive border security and a permanent fix to illegal immigration, this isn’t the right path forward.”

Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, senator Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.), suggested the President was abusing his authority in a Thursday statement: “Trade policy and border policy are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential authority and counter to congressional intent. Following through on this threat would seriously jeopardize passage of USMCA, a central campaign pledge of President Trump’s and what could be a big victory for the country.”

Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said on Friday that Trump’s proposed tariffs are the “wrong remedy” and “misguided.”

“The president is right to point out the crisis at our southern border,” Toomey said. “However, a blanket tax increase on everything Americans purchase from Mexico is the wrong remedy. Tariffs are a dangerous and risky economic tool.”

Few Republican lawmakers have so far voiced their support for the tariffs. One such supporter of Trump’s plans is senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who said the “illegal flows from Central America must stop and Mexico needs to do more.”

In a tweet, Graham wrote: “If Mexico does not do more we will have over a million illegal immigrants from Central America next year. I don’t like tariffs but in this case it is a national security issue and Mexico needs to change their behavior.”

On Friday, the president tweeted that it’s “about stopping drugs as well as illegals!”

Major business groups said that the tariffs would have “devastating consequences” on American consumers and manufacturers.

Jay Timmons, CEO and president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said, “These proposed tariffs would have devastating consequences on manufacturers in America and on American consumers. We have taken our concerns to the highest levels of the administration and strongly urge them to consider carefully the impact of this action on working families across this country.” (Timmons’s group has supported the 2017 Republican tax cuts as well as the USMCA.)

Business Roundtable, which is a group of CEOs of major corporations, expressed similar warnings. “Imposing unilateral tariffs on Mexican imports would be a grave error,” said the group, in a statement, adding that the group “strongly urges the administration not to move forward with these tariffs, which would create significant economic disruption and tax U.S. workers, farmers, consumers and businesses.”

In a Thursday press conference call, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said that the border issues would not affect the USMCA.

“No, the two are absolutely not linked,” said Mulvaney. “This president will defend the nation. He will defend the southern border. If that means taking the tariffs to 25%, that means taking the tariffs to 25%. We hope – sincerely hope – it does not come to that.”

– MK. II

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