GOP lawmakers, business groups slam Trump's Mexico tariff threat

WASHINGTON — Several Republicans in Congress and major business groups on Friday slammed President Donald Trump's threat to impose a 5 percent tariff on all Mexican goods starting next month, warning that the move would hurt both the U.S. economy and the USMCA trade deal's chances of congressional approval.

The president said on Thursday that the tariffs would rise monthly to as high as 25 percent unless Mexico "substantially stops" the number of migrants entering the U.S. illegally.

"If the president goes through with this, I'm afraid progress to get this trade agreement across the finish line will be stifled," said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in a statement Friday. "While I support the need for comprehensive border security and a permanent fix to illegal immigration, this isn't the right path forward. I'm asking the president to reconsider, and for Democrats to work with us to find a solution to the humanitarian crisis at our southern border."

9 PHOTOS
Trump joins leaders of Canada, Mexico to sign new trade pact
See Gallery
Trump joins leaders of Canada, Mexico to sign new trade pact
President Donald Trump, center, reaches out to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they prepare to sign a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that is replacing the NAFTA trade deal, during a ceremony at a hotel before the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The USMCA, as Trump refers to it, must still be approved by lawmakers in all three countries. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Neto, left, participate in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Neto, left, participate in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Neto, left, participate in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
El presidente Donald Trump, el primer ministro de Canadá Justin Trudeau, a la derecha, y el presidente de México, Enrique Peña Neto, a la izquierda, participan en la ceremonia de firma de la USMCA, el viernes 30 de noviembre de 2018 en Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Foto / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump, center, smiles as he speaks next to Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, applauding, before they sign a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that is replacing the NAFTA trade deal, during a ceremony at a hotel before the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The USMCA, as Trump refers to it, must still be approved by lawmakers in all three countries. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Mexico President Enrique Pena Neto, left, as Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, looks on after participating in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Neto, left, walk out after participating in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto speaks as President Donald Trump looks on before they sign a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that is replacing the NAFTA trade deal, during a ceremony at a hotel before the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The USMCA, as Trump refers to it, must still be approved by lawmakers in all three countries. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The senior senator from her state, Republican Chuck Grassley, also blasted Trump's decision and even suggested that he was abusing his presidential authority.

"Trade policy and border security are separate issues," Grassley said in a statement Thursday night. "This is a misuse of presidential authority and counter to congressional intent. Following through on this threat would seriously jeopardize passage of USMCA, a central campaign pledge of President Trump's and what could be a big victory for the country."

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., the lone Republican lawmaker calling for impeachment proceedings against Trump, derided the president and his congressional supporters in a tweet Thursday.

"How many times will Congress let the president unilaterally raise taxes on Americans? All the times," Amash said.

As lawmakers remain in their congressional districts for a week-long recess, most Republicans remained silent about the announcement.

A few voiced support for it, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said that he backs Trump and that the "illegal flows from Central America must stop and Mexico needs to do more."

"If Mexico does not do more we will have over a million illegal immigrants from Central America next year. I don't like tariffs but in this case it is a national security issue and Mexico needs to change their behavior," he tweeted.

The president staunchly defended his position on Friday, tweeting that it's "about stopping drugs as well as illegals!"

22 PHOTOS
Donald and Melania Trump visit Japan
See Gallery
Donald and Melania Trump visit Japan
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, is welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upon arrival for playing a round of golf at Mobara Country Club in Mobara, south of Tokyo, Sunday, May 26, 2019. (Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. first lady Melania Trump, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie Abe visit a digital art museum Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
President Donald Trump walks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before playing a round of golf at Mobara Country Club, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Chiba, Japan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. first lady Melania Trump talks with children as she visits a digital art museum Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
President Donald Trump presents the "President's Cup" to the Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament winner Asanoyama, at Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The motorcade of U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump drive to a Japanese restaurant where Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe host a private dinner in Tokyo, Sunday, May 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
People see the motorcade of U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump near a Japanese restaurant where Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe host a private dinner in Tokyo, Japan, Sunday, May 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A presidential limo known as "The Beast" carrying U.S. President Donald Trump departs Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena after Trump attended a sumo tournament Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Naota Kobayashi shows his support for U.S. President Donald Trump while waiting for the arrival of Trump near the national sumo stadium Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
People wait for the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump outside the national sumo stadium Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump wave national flags with welcoming signs outside the Palace Hotel Tokyo, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump wave national flags with welcoming signs outside the Palace Hotel Tokyo, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
U.S. first lady Melania Trump, center, poses with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie Abe, right, and children for a photo during a visit to a digital art museum in Tokyo Sunday, May 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
U.S. first lady Melania Trump, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie Abe visit a digital art museum Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
President Donald Trump walks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before playing a round of golf at Mobara Country Club, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Chiba, Japan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before playing a round of golf at Mobara Country Club, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Chiba, Japan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A police officer stands guard near a hotel where U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are staying at, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Police officers patrol near a hotel where U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are staying at, in Tokyo Sunday, May 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
President Donald Trump rides in a golf cart with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before playing a round of golf at Mobara Country Club, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Chiba, Japan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wave before playing a round of golf at Mobara Country Club, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Chiba, Japan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. first lady Melania Trump, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie Abe visit a digital art museum Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

In a letter to Trump Thursday night, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that his country would not retaliate, but suggested that the new policy would not be effective, saying that, "Social problems don't get resolved with duties or coercive measures."

Major U.S. business groups said that the move would have negative consequences.

"These proposed tariffs would have devastating consequences on manufacturers in America and on American consumers," the CEO and president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jay Timmons — whose group backs the USMCA, and supported the 2017 GOP tax cuts package — said in a statement. "We have taken our concerns to the highest levels of the administration and strongly urge them to consider carefully the impact of this action on working families across this country."

Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs of major corporations, sounded a similar note. "Imposing unilateral tariffs on Mexican imports would be a grave error," the group said in a statement, adding that it "strongly urges the Administration not to move forward with these tariffs, which would create significant economic disruption and tax U.S. workers, farmers, consumers and businesses."

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters in a conference call Thursday that the decision would not affect the trade deal.

"No, the two are absolutely not linked," he said. "This president will defend the nation. He will defend the southern border. If that means taking the tariffs to 25 percent, that means taking the tariffs to 25 percent. We hope — sincerely hope — it does not come to that."

Before the tariffs announcement Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had sent a letter to congressional leaders to begin the ratification process of the USMCA, and Mexico's president had formally asked Mexico's Senate to ratify the deal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggested in a statement that the administration's move on the trade pact was premature.

"The Trump Administration's decision to send Congress a draft statement of administrative action before we have finished working with U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer to ensure the USMCA benefits American workers and farmers is not a positive step," she said. "It indicates a lack of knowledge on the part of the Administration on the policy and process to pass a trade agreement."

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.