Trump and His Threat To Impose Tariffs

Mexico breathed a sigh of relief following the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to temporarily suspend his threat to impose tariffs on imports of Mexican products. But don’t be deceived: Trump will try again.

The self-imposed international isolation of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has left his country in a position of weakness in the face of Trump’s threats. And that could encourage the Republican to intensify his aggression against Mexico as he begins his campaign for reelection.

There is little doubt that Trump’s threat to impose tariffs of up to 25% on Mexican products is one of the silliest and most counterproductive U.S. methods to stop illegal immigration.

These tariffs could wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs on both sides of the border, raise the price of cars and electronics for Americans, [and] increase unemployment in Mexico and illegal immigration into the U.S.

Politics, not the economy, is Trump’s main motivation. Attacking Mexico was the central theme of his presidential campaign in 2016 and it is shaping up as the mainstay of his campaign for reelection in 2020. All populist leaders need an enemy, real or fabricated, to energize their base. Trump is no exception.

What is more difficult to understand is AMLO’s defensive strategy. Instead of trying to forge alliances with Europe, China and other victims of Trump’s outdated economic nationalism, AMLO has isolated Mexico from the international diplomatic community.

When AMLO was elected in 2018, Trump had been in office for more than a year and it was no secret that Mexico would remain his favorite villain.

Nevertheless, in the six months since he took office, AMLO — who speaks no foreign language and has never shown much interest in international affairs — has not once travelled abroad. He also did not visit other countries during the six months prior to his inauguration.

What’s worse, AMLO said last week that he would not attend the Group of 20 summit of industrial and emerging-market nations in Japan on June 28. Trump and leaders of China, Russia and major European countries will attend that summit of the top global economies.

He also does not plan to attend the General Council of the World Trade Organization meeting to be held in Switzerland on June 23.

Likewise, AMLO has cut down on Mexico’s activism in international forums or has withdrawn from them, proclaiming that its government will be “neutral” on key issues such as Venezuela’s crisis.

Before AMLO’s coming to power, Mexico was one of the most active members of the Lima Group, a regional group of the largest democracies in Latin America that seeks to restore democracy in Venezuela. But since he came to power, Mexico has stopped attending most of the meetings of the Lima Group.

In other words, AMLO has decreased Mexico’s presence at the most important forums that are trying to resolve the biggest humanitarian crisis in Latin America. And when a country is not in the match, it is out of the game.

For the benefit of Mexico and the U.S., AMLO needs to make Mexico return to the world, start attending key international summits and build ties with U.S. Republican and Democratic leaders in order to send a clear message to Trump that illegal immigration cannot be stopped by implementing tariff measures that increase poverty.

On the contrary, he should be telling the entire world that what the U.S. and Mexico need is more — not less — commerce and economic integration, because that benefits everyone.

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