Former US ambassador slams Trump’s new tariffs on Mexico

A former U.S. ambassador to Mexico is criticizing President Trump’s latest threat to levy tariffs on all imports from Mexico.

“I don’t think mixing immigration and trade tariffs is a good approach to things,” Earl Anthony Wayne, a career diplomat who served as ambassador to Mexico from 2011 to 2015 under the Obama administration, told Hill.TV on Monday.

President Trump announced last week that he would place a 5-percent tariff on Mexican imports starting June 10, saying the tariffs would rise each month to as high as 25 percent until Mexico stops the influx of Central American migrants at the southern border.

But Wayne warned that Trump’s latest threat against Mexico could potentially sabotage his new trade deal that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“We just negotiated a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, which we’re trying to get the three Congress in each country to approve,” he said. “So then you have this going forward and then all of a sudden you have an unprecedented mixing of you’re not performing on immigration, so we’re going to impose new tariffs.”

Wayne said Trump should have taken a more consistent and conciliatory approach with Mexico over immigration. 

“What I would have liked to have seen was several months ago, calling a meeting of ministers from both countries setting up a process for intense negotiations,” he said, adding that Trump’s diplomatic relations with Mexico on the whole have been “episodic.” 

He added that many of the problems at the border could also be addressed by Congress.

“Some of the problems are shortages of staff and resources on the U.S. border,” Wayne said. “If we had more asylum judges out there at the border, we could deal with these people really quickly.”

President Trump defended his new tariffs on Mexico over the weekend amid criticism from members of his own party, including Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also threatened legal action to block the tariffs from going into effect.

In a series of tweets, Trump predicted that his proposed tariffs would force companies to manufacture their goods in the U.S. to avoid steep tariffs on their goods.

However, Wayne noted that almost half of manufactured goods are intermediate goods, which means that the U.S. and Mexico produce these items in together and therefore the tariffs could have an equally negative impact on both countries.

“U.S. companies are very worried of the costs it’s going to impose and they’re saying with some correctness this is a tax on U.S. consumers, on U.S. companies as well as on Mexicans because we build so much together,” he said.

—Tess Bonn

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