Trump gives Mexico 'one-year' warning for auto tariffs, border shutdown

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE on Thursday retreated further from his threat to immediately close the southern border, instead saying he would give Mexico a year before taking drastic measures to address drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

Speaking to reporters in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Trump said he would slap auto tariffs on Mexico if the government has not done enough to address the problems during that time before closing the border.

“You know I will do it,” Trump said. “I don’t play games.”

Trump described his newest threat as a “one-year warning” to the Mexican government. Previously, the president said he would shutter the border this week.

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“If the drugs don’t stop, or largely stop, we’re going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular cars. The whole ballgame is cars. And if that doesn’t stop the drugs, we close the border,” the president said.

The warning comes days after Trump appeared to back off his initial threat to shut the U.S.-Mexico border, which triggered a bipartisan outcry in Washington and border states. 

On Tuesday, the president said his decision would depend on a variety of factors, including congressional action and increased enforcement by Mexico, after saying last Friday he would make the move this week.

But Trump issued a fresh ultimatum on Wednesday, saying that Congress must act “immediately” to close “loopholes” in U.S. immigration laws.

“If no action, Border, or large sections of Border, will close. This is a National Emergency!” he tweeted.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress, as well as business groups, have repeatedly warned that such a move could deliver a catastrophic blow to the U.S. economy. Mexico is the U.S.’s third largest goods trading partner and nearly a half million people cross the border legally each day, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Members of Trump’s party have personally conveyed that message to the president.

“Closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump faces crucial decisions on economy, guns Are Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' MORE (R-Ky.) said this week.

Some in Washington have also said that taking radical action could endanger ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which would replace the existing trade pact between the three nations.

But Trump has brushed aside those concerns, saying his desire to crack down on illegal immigration is stronger than his willingness to finalize trade deals.

“They’re going to have to live with it. The USMCA is a great deal for everybody. This is more important to me than the USMCA,” Trump said Thursday.

Trump for months has sought to use sweeping measures to address what his administration calls a crisis at the U.S. southern border, caused by thousands of Central American migrants crossing into the country each day and overwhelming detention facilities.

The president declared a national emergency earlier this year to circumvent Congress and build his long-promised border wall following a 35-day government shutdown.

The House and Senate both passed a measure reversing the declaration, but Trump vetoed it. Progressive and immigrant-rights groups are suing to block the declaration, saying it overstepped the president’s authority.

Immigration is an animating issue for Trump’s political base and his near-constant focus on the issue could fire up his supporters ahead of the 2020 election.

Trump is traveling Friday to Calexico, Calif., to tour a segment of border wall.

--Updated at 2:10 p.m.