Trump drops tariffs on earlier concessions

President abruptly abandons trade barriers citing pledges Mexico already made

President Trump addresses supporters in Murphysboro last fall. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

President Trump addresses supporters in Murphysboro last fall. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

President Trump abruptly dropped his threats to impose tariffs on Mexican goods on Friday, but many of the concessions he cited on immigration had already been agreed to by the Mexican government.

After threatening to impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexico over refugees and undocumented immigrants coming through the country to the United States — tariffs set to take effect Monday — Trump suddenly tweeted Friday on his return from a Europe trip: “I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico. The tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended. Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to … stem the tide of migration through Mexico, and to our southern border. This is being done to greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States.”

Trump promised that “details of the agreement will be released shortly by the State Department,” but The New York Times reported Saturday that “the deal to avert tariffs that President Trump announced with great fanfare on Friday night consists largely of actions that Mexico had already promised to take in prior discussions with the United States over the past several months, according to officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations.”

Trump lashed back Monday: “We have fully signed and documented another very important part of the immigration and security deal with Mexico, one that the U.S. has been asking about getting for many years.” As proof, though, he said only, “It will be revealed in the not too distant future and will need a vote by Mexico’s legislative body!”

In any case, Illinois state importers and farmers fearing retaliatory tariffs on their exports to Mexico were relieved by the move to take tariffs off the table, even as Trump threatened to reconsider them if Mexico doesn’t follow through on trying to rein in refugees and other undocumented immigrants in their journeys from Central America to the United States.

Illinois typically imports $13 billion in Mexican goods annually, leaving the state open to what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated at $658 million in taxes paid by U.S. importers if the 5 percent tariff had taken effect.