Americans who love fresh fruits and vegetables and whose automobiles are packed with parts manufactured in Mexico were relieved when President Trump announced last weekend he was suspending his threat to impose tariffs on Mexican goods and products. He said Mexico had agreed during negotiations to help stop Central Americans from amassing by the thousands at our southern border.
U.S. consumers were relieved because the tariffs would have increased the cost of living for American families.
Although Trump said he had forged a big new deal, we’re learning that agreement wasn’t a result of the negotiations. Instead, the Mexicans had agreed in December and March to help, long before the threat of tariffs.
Among the steps to help with the crisis, Mexico is deploying its National Guard to the Guatemala border to stop people fleeing northward. Mexico also agreed to keep more asylum-seekers while the United States processes their cases.
While it’s encouraging to know Mexico is helping the United States and the Central Americans seeking asylum here, we have to wonder why Trump threatened tariffs and then negotiated over matters that already had been decided.
His threats and the potential for more trade disruptions caused markets to drop. If the president wanted to link trade to his talks with the Mexicans, perhaps he should have suggested that Mexico and the United States partner up and ratify the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. U.S. farmers and manufacturers stand to benefit from the new pact, yet none of the three nations have voted to ratify it.
Although the tariff threats are suspended, the United States has lost something in this episode. Once again, we’ve left our global trading partners wondering what has happened to the stable, reliable United States they once did business with. Why did we threaten tariffs when Mexico already had agreed to help, and why didn’t we sew up the new trade deal while the Mexicans were at the bargaining table?
Trump told us during his campaign we would win so much we’d be tired of it. Well, it’s not the winning that’s wearing us down.
We suggest that as his next step he brings together our northern and southern neighbors and work the kinks out of the USMCA trade agreement. That would be a positive step toward normalizing trade with Canada and Mexico, and then we can focus on other markets.