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'It Would Mean a Trade War': Mexico Warns of 'Disastrous' Consequences After Trump Tariff Threat

"This threat, taken to action, would be extremely serious, and Mexico will not stand with arms crossed."

President Donald Trump delivers remarks in the Roosevelt Room at the White House May 23, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Joining lawmakers, progressive critics, and economists in the U.S. who denounced President Donald Trump's tariff threat against Mexico Thursday as a reckless move that will harm American consumers, Mexican trade negotiator Jesús Seade warned that the proposed duty on his country's goods would have "disastrous" consequences.

"This threat, taken to action, would be extremely serious, and Mexico will not stand with arms crossed," Seade told reporters following Trump's policy announcement.

"Trump's reckless tariff decision removes any pretense that he cares about anything other than exacerbating the border crisis and exploiting it for political gain."
—Rep. Raul Grijalva

Seade said Mexico "will respond energetically" if the tariff takes effect, but added that it will seek talks with the Trump administration before retaliating.

In a letter to his U.S. counterpart on Thursday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico emphasized the need for dialogue and said he does not want a confrontation.

If talks fail, Seade warned, "it would mean a trade war."

As with so many of his enormously consequential policy moves, Trump announced his decision to impose a 5 percent tariff on imported Mexican goods by June 10 on Twitter.

If Mexico does not ramp up its crackdown on migrants crossing to the U.S., Trump tweeted, the tariff "will gradually increase until the illegal immigration problem is remedied."

In a statement on Thursday, the White House said the tariffs "will be increased to 15 percent on August 1, 2019, to 20 percent on September 1, 2019, and to 25 percent on October 1, 2019. Tariffs will permanently remain at the 25 percent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory."

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As the New York Times reported, "Mexico is Washington's largest trading partner, sending across the border items like tomatoes, cars, and rugs. Mexico sent the United States $346.5 billion of goods last year—meaning that a 5 percent tariff on those products would amount to a tax increase of more than $17 billion."

"Most of the costs," according to the Times, "would then be passed on to businesses and consumers."

On top of the harms to U.S. consumers, immigration experts and rights advocates said tariffs would do nothing to remedy humanitarian issues at the border, which many critics argue are a direct consequence of Trump's anti-immigrant agenda.

In a series of tweets late Thursday, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) accused Trump of using "asylum seekers, children, the economy, and American values" as "disposable pawns in his cruel game."

"Trump's reckless tariff decision that puts the lives and jobs of Arizona's workers and their families at stake," Grijalva said, "removes any pretense that he cares about anything other than exacerbating the border crisis and exploiting it for political gain."

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