SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The Border Trade Alliance has denounced President Trump’s shock announcement of a five percent tariff on Mexican imports. 

Via Twitter, Trump on Thursday said he would slap a five percent tariff on Mexican imports “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico and into our country stop.” He said the tariffs would start June 10.

Founded in 1986, the Border Trade Alliance (BTA) is a grassroots, non-profit organization that serves as a forum for participants to address key issues affecting trade, travel and security in North America.

Paola Avila

Working with entities in Canada, Mexico and the United States, the BTA advocates on behalf of policies and initiatives designed to improve border affairs and trade relations among the three nations.

BTA Chair Paola Avila said: “Establishing tariffs on our friends, neighbors, and trading partners is exactly the wrong policy to pursue. The president’s plan, if executed, will do tremendous harm to our relationship with Mexico, to our country’s ability to adopt new trade agreements going forward, and to U.S. consumers, who will be the ones who will pay for these tariffs. Tariffs on Mexican imports are totally and completely unnecessary.”

BTA President Britton Clarke said: “At a time when we should be directing all resources and goodwill toward the congressional adoption of the USMCA, imposing tariffs on our trading partner Mexico will do severe damage to that effort. USMCA and NAFTA are about tearing down tariffs and strengthening the bonds of our two economies. This announcement will only hurt the American consumer and will be a tremendous drag on the U.S. economy.”

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, was also critical of Trump’s tariff plan.

“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.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

“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.”

The Texas Border Coalition represents cities and counties from Brownsville to El Paso. Its chairman, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, issued this statement about Trump’s tariff plan:

“The Texas Border Coalition strongly opposes President Trump’s threat to impose unilateral tariffs on Mexican imports. Our analysis suggests the tariffs may not rest on firm constitutional or legal ground, and probably violate international agreements including the North American Free Trade Agreement and those underlying the World Trade Organization.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz

“While border communities are bearing the overwhelming burden of helping to deal with the crushing numbers of Central Americans seeking asylum in our country, the President’s threat to impose tariffs is not an appropriate response and would likely make the situation worse.

“Over the next few days, TBC will work with our partners and allies to identify and pursue appropriate legal and legislative measures to remedy the President’s threat.”

In a statement issued after his tweet Trump said: “Mexico has made massive amounts of money in its dealings with the United States and for years Mexico has not treated us fairly. We are now asserting our rights as a sovereign nation,” Trump said. “The U.S. has been invaded by hundreds of thousands of people coming through Mexico as a result of lawless chaos.”

Trump said the “sustained imposition of tariffs will produce a massive return of jobs back to American cities and towns because we are firmly and forcefully standing up America’s interests.”

The White House said the tariffs will rise five percent per month to as much as 25 percent but would not say what it would take to remove or halt them. It would only say: “It will be at our discretion on an ad hoc basis.”

U.S. officials say 80,000 migrants are being held in custody with an average of 4,500 mostly Central American migrants arriving in the U.S. daily.

Jaime Serra Puche

Jaime Serra Puche, Mexico’s former trade minister who negotiated the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), told Reuters the announcement was unacceptable and “in total violation of NAFTA.” Another negotiator said Trump risked violating World Trade Organization rules.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador defended his government’s handling of migration in a letter to Trump, saying: “Social problems aren’t resolved with taxes or coercive measures.” He said a trade delegation led by Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard would travel to Washington on Friday.

In a two-page letter to Trump, AMLO said: “You know we are fulfilling our responsibility to stop (migrants) moving through ur country, as much as possible and without violating human rights.”

Trade negotiators and analysts said Trump’s announcement will make it harder to get ratification of USMCA, the successor to NAFTA.  

The Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said: “Trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent.”

Grassley said imposition of the tariffs “would seriously jeopardize passage of USMCA.” He added: “I support nearly every one of President Trump’s immigration policies, but this is not one of them.”

Under NAFTA, many U.S. manufacturers moved their supply chain to Mexico. The U.S. and Mexico trades roughly $300 billion worth of goods each year. Tariffs will likely mean higher prices for U.S. consumers. 

According to Reuters, Trump’s announcement “rattled investors’ who feared that worsening trade friction could hurt the global economy. The news agency reported that the Mexican peso, U.S. stock index futures and Asian stock markets “tumbled on the news,” including the shares of Japanese automakers who ship cars from Mexico to the United States.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Paola Avila, chair of the Border Trade Alliance.