Trump plan for tariffs on Mexican goods finds little support in Arizona

Trucks wait to enter the U.S. from Mexico at the Otay Mesa, Calif., Port of Entry. Mexico exported $346 billion in goods to the U.S. last year – $9 billion to Arizona – that would be subject to the president’s proposed tariffs. (Photo by Glenn Fawcett/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

By Miranda Faulkner and Tim Royan

Arizona lawmakers, business officials and experts Friday blasted President Donald Trump’s threat to impose a tariff on Mexican goods in hopes of cutting immigration, calling his plan everything from “terribly damaging” to “unhinged.”

Trump announced the tariffs Thursday – one day after Border Patrol agents apprehended a group of 1,036 immigrants crossing the border near El Paso, Texas – to pressure Mexico to “dramatically reduce or eliminate the number of illegal aliens crossing its territory into the United States.”

But critics said the move would do little to slow the influx of immigrants while doing a lot to harm U.S. businesses and consumers.

“Tariffs are not the way to handle the problems with immigration that we are seeing at the border,” said George Hammond, director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management.

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Arizona could be especially hard hit: Hammond’s center recently reported that the state exported almost $7.65 billion in goods to Mexico in 2018 and imported more than $9 billion from that country.

“Let’s just do simple math,” said Arizona Chamber of Commerce President Glenn Hamer. “A 5% tariff, that’s a tax of $450 million – and the president has threatened to ratchet this up to 25%. That’s billions of dollars. So, consumers are going to feel this.”

“Everyone is going to feel the pain, because tariffs are a polite way to say taxes,” said Hamer. He earlier called the threat of tariffs “a prescription for a self-induced economic slowdown” that “will only inflict harm on the U.S. consumer.”

But Trump claimed his plan would actually benefit the economy by forcing companies that want to avoid the tariffs to move operations back to the U.S., bringing a “massive return of jobs back to American cities and towns.”

Trump said he has the authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to impose tariffs starting at 5% on June 10 and rising 5% on the first of every month until they reach 25%. He said the tariffs would stay in place until the “immigration crisis is alleviated,” a benchmark to be “determined in our sole discretion and judgment.”

In a letter Thursday to Trump, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Mexico is working to stop Central American migrants from crossing his country on the way to the U.S., adding that “social issues are not resolved with taxes or coercive tactics.”

He stopped short of threatening retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods to Mexico, calling for continued dialog between the countries – adding that he is “not a coward or timid” but saying leaders are “obligated to find peaceful solutions to controversies.”

The markets were already reacting Friday to Trump’s announcement. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down over 1.4%, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite index fell 1.3% and 1.5%, respectively, a month-ending slide that led to the worst May since 2010, according to Marketwatch.

Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, said the tariff threat also affected currency exchange rates.

“The Mexican peso deteriorated about 2.5% percent today,” Hoffman said Friday. “That means on exports, it’ll cost 2.5% more before Mexico even retaliates with any reciprocal tariffs, which they are likely to do.”

Hoffman said tariffs “unequivocally are paid by the exporters and the importers of these products and they get passed on downstream to the consumer.”

State Democrats were quick to criticize Trump’s plan as a political ploy at best and economically damaging at worst.

“I thought you were a businessman @realDonaldTrump? This is a horrible policy and will have devastating impacts on our local economy,” Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Tucson, said in a tweet. “Our border is an asset … (to) the entire state of Arizona.”

Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, said that Congress must address what he called “our broken immigration system,” but that imposing tariffs will not solve the problem and could derail ongoing trade negotiations.

Border Patrol agents apprehended 1,036 men, women and children trying to cross the border in El Paso, Texas, this week, an event cited by President Donald Trump in his call for tariffs on Mexican imports. (Photo by U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

“Arizona businesses and consumers rely on trade with Mexico every single day,” O’Halleran said in a prepared statement. “This decision to raise tariffs is going to hurt our economy and raise the prices of goods for working families.”

Border Patrol agents apprehended 1,036 men, women and children trying to cross the border in El Paso, Texas, this week, an event cited by President Donald Trump in his call for tariffs on Mexican imports. (Photo by U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

Even state Republicans were reluctant to endorse the plan, with most focusing instead on the need to fix the immigration problem.

Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted that he is “opposed to tariffs and deeply value Arizona’s relationship with Mexico,” but added that he prioritizes “national security and a solution to our humanitarian crisis at the border above commerce.”

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, asked in a tweet, “How many more illegal aliens will come into this country before House Democrats acknowledge the crisis?”

But Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, said Trump’s “reckless” proposal “will do little to solve the humanitarian crisis at our border.”

“Instead, it will only harm American consumers, businesses, and workers who will ultimately pay the price,” said a statement from Grijalva. “The people of Arizona, asylum seekers, the economy, and our values deserve better than to be disposable pawns in Trump’s depraved game and nonsensical trade policy.”

Many said that mixing immigration issues with international trade is a bad idea – and may not even be possible.

Simon Lester, a trade expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, said Trump’s porposed tariffs clearly violate the current North American Free Trade Agreement. Even if Mexico does respond to Trump’s demands to crack down on migrants, he said it might not have to the resources to do so.

“It’s just mixing bad trade policy with bad immigration policy,” Lester said.

Hamer said it’s just a “terrible idea.”

“It will not help our security situation,” Hamer said. “If anything it will imperil it because it could make it more difficult for the United States to work with Mexico.”


  1. All the politicians, the Chambers of Commerce and the Mexican Govt and the Democrat Party media say tariffs are the wrong tool to stop the invasion of our country by illegal immigrants coming across our southern border but none of them have provided a workable alternative. The problem is, the Democrat Congress refuses to fund border security and change our immigration system to make the necessary changes to fix the problem and the Mexican Govt. is accommodating the invasion instead of helping its “friend” the U S to stop it. If these critics have some new workable solutions to the problem, lets hear them. If nothing else, President Trump`s proposed tariffs has certainly got their attention so maybe now they will step up with real solutions and if not we need to see if tariffs will do the job because the invasion must be stopped. A nation without borders is not a nation as Mexico`s diligent policing of its own southern border (except when it opens that border to accommodate those traveling north to invades the U S) attests.

  2. Let’s shut down the border and freeze all illegal alien money transfers to Mexico as well.

  3. They can have their lousy tomatoes… damn things are never ripe and taste like mud. If it’s hechoed in Mehico or China, keep it. And take Rahooie Grizelda with you…

    And Mehico Prez who said Trump turned the US into an anti-immigrant country overnight… you are a massive idiot… we’ve been putting up with this crap for decades.

  4. What we save we give to the American Truck drivers familys
    And any other American that it really hurts and needs money
    Screw Mexico
    I knew big wigs there that made Ford parts they hated their poor and treated them like shit
    Big houses on hill with big hugh walls gaurds in front with guns protecting them the rich
    The poor mexican/indians get run over by these rich Mexican Spainish ..
    Really At least Secure our Borders . Now
    People wake

  5. It gets all of my Support and all of my friends
    Our Safety comes first
    GOV Acey “Ducey needs to come to understand this
    Arizonians Matter
    We dont want illegals here draining our systems We dont want drugs here destorying familys
    We dont want more crime
    We need our American homeless taken care of ETC
    Our Farmers can grow what those trucks bring in putting them back to work
    Mexico makes plenty of money off us. We can do with out for a while Until they get off their lazy ass and Protect Us
    Their seedy greedy Gov dosent take care of their own people
    Screw them
    Gov acey Ducey please protect Arizonains first Not your pocket book and your cronies

  6. All of these politicians and business leaders are at fault for this crisis.

    They’ve all been profiting and benefiting from this crisis.

    Now we are being INVADED.

    This crisis has been building up since the 1980’s. NONE of these politicians have fixed it. NONE!


  7. AZ pays $1.4Billion a year to educate, house, medicate & incarcerate illegal aliens. I’ll give up my avocado toast to send my kids to a school that doesn’t have to spend $$$$ on ESL teachers. Give me a break BUILD THE DAMN WALL.

  8. More fake news. I’ve lived in AZ my entire life, and every person I know supports the tariffs and whatever else it takes to stop this.

  9. Didn’t Cronkite News support Grijalvas’ ‘Boycott Arizona’ movement after the passage of SB1070?
    So what’s the difference? Oh Yeah, Cronkite News is full of Left-wing kooks that believe that they are actual journalists.

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