The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says Connecticut imports more than $2.5 billion in goods from Mexico, products that could cost consumers in the state an additional $125 million starting next week if President Donald Trump follows through on his pledge to impose new tariffs on the nation’s southern neighbor.
Trump has threatened to impose a 5 percent tariff on all Mexican imports, and raise it monthly to as high as 25 percent by October, unless Mexico takes action to slow migration from Central America through its country and into the United States.
Using data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the chamber determined a 5 percent tariff would increase the cost of Mexican imports to the state by $125 million and prices would steadily increase, costing Connecticut consumers nearly $626 million if the full 25 percent tariff is fully implemented.
“Nobody in Connecticut wants to pay more for their consumer goods,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, who like most Democrats – and an increasing number of congressional Republicans — oppose Trump’s plan.
There’s also a concern Mexico would put countervailing tariffs on the U.S. goods if the new trade war escalates.
According to the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, Connecticut exported about $948 million worth of commodities to Mexico in 2018, much of it manufactured goods.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell advised the White House to hold off on the imposition of Mexican tariffs until Trump can make a case for them to members of Congress, who have been deluged with concerns from local farmers and businesses.
Vice President Mike Pence is conducting trade talks with Mexican officials while Trump is in Europe in Europe this week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day invasion of Normandy.
But the president tweeted Wednesday that his tariff threat was “no bluff.”
“I think Trump will back down,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who like Murphy opposes the imposition of tariffs on Mexico.
And Murphy said “I think Republicans are hoping they can convince” the president to change his mind. “Donald Trump says a million things that are not true every single day,” Murphy said. “But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’ll do it.”
Murphy also said the imposition tariffs would shut down factories in that nation, potentially leading to more migration to the United States.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday he is optimistic that the two sides can reach a deal.
To set up the first round of Mexican tariffs for Monday, the White House will have to decide by Friday whether they will use an existing national emergency declaration to issue those new levies or say there is a new emergency on the border that would justify the tariffs. White House lawyers are leaning toward using the existing emergency declaration, one of the people said.
Trump declared a national emergency in February, originally to give himself the authority to spend government money on border wall that Congress didn’t approve. White House lawyers have indicated they prefer to amend the previous emergency border declaration, which allows the president to shift money from other programs to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
Both the U.S. House and Senate adopted a resolution of disapproval in February to end Trump’s emergency declaration. But the House did not have enough votes to override Trump’s veto a month later.
It’s unclear if the tariff issue would prompt some of the Republicans opposed the resolution to change their votes.
Trump administration officials say Mexico can prevent the tariffs by securing its southern border with Guatemala, cracking down on criminal smuggling and agreeing to a “safe third country agreement” that would make it difficult for those who enter Mexico from other countries to claim asylum in the United States.
But the threat of Mexico tariffs, coming on the heels of new tariffs on Chinese goods, has shaken Wall Street and prompted Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome H. Powell to say on Tuesday that the central bank is prepared to take action Trump’s trade wars weaken the economy, presumably by cutting interest rates.