Chamber of Commerce predicts ‘dire consequences’ for proposed Mexico tariffs

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Friday joined critics of President Donald Trump’s threat to tax Mexican imports, saying such a move would have “dire consequences” for the area’s economy.

In a Twitter post Thursday, Trump proposed a 5% tariff on all Mexican imports, which he said will gradually increase to 25% by Oct. 1 if the Mexican government fails to stop immigrants entering the country illegally through the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump suggested the tariff would also force auto manufacturers to return their facilities to the United States to avoid the additional costs, which often get passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

“Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades,” Trump said in a Twitter post Friday morning. “Because of the Dems, our Immigration Laws are BAD. Mexico makes a FORTUNE from the U.S., have for decades, they can easily fix this problem. Time for them to finally do what must be done!”

The chamber condemned the proposed tariff, which is scheduled to go into effect June 10, calling it “significantly damaging.” According to the chamber, San Diego County currently has a $2.5 billion manufacturing supply chain with Mexico.

“In San Diego we aren’t just trading with Mexico,” Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Sanders said. “We are producing together. The implementation of tariffs would have dire consequences on our region’s highly developed integrated supply chain, adversely affecting our local manufacturing and trade-related jobs.”

White House officials elaborated on the plan Thursday, saying Mexico could avoid the tariff altogether by tightening its own southern border with Guatemala and taking a hard-line approach to drug cartel and smuggling activities. Immigration officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Friday they would deploy to Guatemala to help the country’s local authorities stem the tide of immigrants attempting to enter Mexico, and ultimately the U.S., illegally.

The announcement drew pushback from Congress Republicans and Democrats. Meanwhile, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wrote a letter to Trump Thursday, saying he prefers a dialogue about the two countries’ relationship rather than a confrontation. Lopez Obrador also threatened to impose tariffs of its own on U.S. goods should Trump’s tariff go into effect.

Sanders and the chamber expressed concern the tariffs could also put the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade deal that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, in jeopardy. The three countries hoped to ratify the deal by the end of the year after signing it last November.

“The resulting trade war will have a chilling effect on the U.S.- Mexico relationship and runs counter to U.S. efforts on border management and security,” Sanders said. “Instead of tariffs we should work to strengthen our relationship with our friends, allies, business partners and neighbors to the south.”

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