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Reuters/Adrees Latif
Checking Mexican goods at the US border.
CARROTS AND STICKS

Mexico can’t afford to ignore Trump’s trade war

By Ephrat Livni

Donald Trump today tweeted that Mexico is “an abuser of the United States, taking but never giving.” He vowed to bring back US jobs and companies that have moved south of the border through taxation and tariffs, declaring “America has had enough!”

The American president argues that Mexico is “invading” its northern neighbor and that it could easily stop the flow of “drug dealers, cartels, human traffickers, coyotes, and illegal immigrants.” Whether or not the situation at the border can be characterized as an invasion, and regardless of how hard or easy it may be to stop, it is certain that Mexico can’t afford to ignore Trump’s threatened trade war.

About 80% of Mexico’s exports go to the US, Reuters reports, and Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador seems eager to mollify Trump. On May 30, the US president announced that, as of June 10, all Mexican exports to the US will be hit with an escalating 5% tariff unless Mexico stops Central Americans trying to cross the American border illegally. In response, Lopez Obrador hinted yesterday that he may be able to control migration to reach a deal with Trump, and said he expects “good results” from upcoming talks.

Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard announced on Twitter yesterday that he will meet with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on June 5 to discuss the new tariffs Trump announced. He noted that the Mexican embassy in Washington, DC is filling up with visitors who will attend the negotiations, including secretary of agriculture and rural development, Victor Manuel Villalobos, who will begin discussions with his American counterpart Sonny Perdue.

Mexico seems eager to signal its willingness to talk to Trump and do what it can to avoid the threatened tariffs and escalation of the trade war. But Ebrard also indicated that he expects the American negotiators to treat Mexican delegates respectfully and to recognize the southern nation’s great history, tweeting in Spanish, “We must find the political means to coexist with the northern neighbor. The only way to do it is from [a place of] respect. Mexico is and will always be a great civilization and demands to be treated as such.”

Trump, for his part, seems inclined to take a hard line with Mexico. While Ebrard was scrambling to set up meetings in Washington, the US president was preparing for a state visit to the UK but clearly had the southern neighbor on his mind. He didn’t blame Mexico for all of his border woes, however, also taking time to tweet about his border wall and the domestic political rivals opposed to it.

In response to legal efforts to block the project, Trump wrote, “The Wall is under construction and moving along quickly, despite all of the Radical Liberal Democrat lawsuits. What are they thinking as our Country is invaded by so many people (illegals) and things (Drugs) that we do not want. Make America Great Again!”