Trump Vows Mexico Tariffs: Who would they Hit, and Why?

President Donald Trump tweeted yesterday that, beginning on June 10, the United States would impose a 5 percent tariff on all goods entering the US from Mexico "until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP." He added that the tariff rate would steadily rise "until the illegal immigration problem is remedied."

A few thoughts:

This will affect lots of things that Americans buy: Mexico recently became the US' largest trade partner (in part because of the US-China trade spat). If these tariffs move forward, Americans looking to buy cars, electronics, and the makings of a fresh salad will pay more. Note: tomato-lovers and avocados-aficionados are particularly exposed.

Mexico can retaliate, a bit. Mexico's economy is much smaller than its northern neighbor's, so it has less leverage. But it can still target American exporters of meat, cheese, potatoes, cranberries, bourbon and speedboats (speedboats!) with retaliatory tariffs that could cripple their sales in Mexico, a major market. Mexico has done this once before, in response to Trump's metals tariffs last year.

The USMCA trade agreement, also known as NAFTA 2.0, is in serious jeopardy. The agreement has not been ratified in either the US or Mexico. US Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, object to parts of the agreement and have delayed a vote. Trump appears to be preparing to force that vote anyway. If it comes, the treaty may well be rejected.

Will it work? Trump has made the fight against illegal immigration the heart of his political message since he first launched his presidential campaign. Turning the screws on Mexico over this issue plays well with his base as he heads into 2020. But a total "STOP" to undocumented migrant flows is virtually impossible, so what specifically does he want from Mexico now? Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has dispatched an envoy to Washington to find out.

Could it backfire? These tariffs would certainly hurt the Mexican economy far more than the US economy. But if Mexico's economy sinks, more people will want to leave Mexico, meaning more pressure at the US-Mexican border. And a crippled economy will leave the Mexican government with less money to address precisely the border problems that Trump says he wants solved.

Bottom line: The world is again reacting to a tweet, and Trump could just as easily reverse this plan. If not, these tariffs will have serious implications for Latin America's second-largest economy, for American consumers, and for US politics ahead of the presidential election.

Keep your eye on the timeline.

America's internet giants are being pulled into political fights right and left these days. Speech – what can be said, and who can say it – is increasingly at the center of those controversies. Consider these two stories from opposite sides of the world:

More Show less

Italy's prime minister resigns – Giuseppe Conte, the caretaker prime minister appointed to mediate an uneasy governing alliance between Italy's anti-establishment 5Star Movement and the right-wing Lega party, resigned on Tuesday. Rather than wait for a no-confidence vote triggered by the rightwing Lega Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Conte stepped down on his own terms. Salvini, who's popularity has been rising, had hoped that by triggering snap elections he could get himself appointed prime minister, will now have to wait for Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, to decide what comes next. While Lega and smaller right-wing allies want a new vote, center and left-wing parties are apparently working to see if they can form a majority coalition – perhaps including 5Star -- that would allow Mattarella to appoint a new government without fresh elections. We're watching to see how the dust settles in Europe's third-biggest economy.

More Show less

300: The US tested a new medium-range cruise missile on Sunday that flew more than 300 miles. This marks the first time the US has tested a weapon that would have violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War era pact that was officially abandoned three weeks ago, sparking fears of a new global arms race.

More Show less