US business groups slam Trump's tariff threat against Mexico

Business groups in the U.S. are warning President Trump against imposing new tariffs on Mexican imports next month, saying the move would harm American companies and consumers.

Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. will impose a 5 percent tariff beginning June 10 on all imports from Mexico in an effort to halt the flow of migrants from Central America.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce declared it “exactly the wrong move.”

“These tariffs will be paid by American families and businesses without doing a thing to solve the very real problems at the border. Instead, Congress and the president need to work together to address the serious problems at the border,” Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer, said in a statement Friday.

The powerful business lobby also said it is considering a legal challenge against Trump's tariffs.

“We have no choice but to explore every option available to push back,” Bradley said. “Because of the intense negative impact of this move, we have to consider all options: legal, congressional, etc.”

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) said that while Americans and Trump are “frustrated with our broken immigration system” and that inaction “has led to a true humanitarian crisis,” the proposed tariffs would have “devastating consequences.”

“Intertwining difficult trade, tariff and immigration issues creates a Molotov cocktail of policy, and America’s manufacturing workers should not be forced to suffer because of the failure to fix our immigration system,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said in a statement.

Timmons added that he has taken those concerns to the “highest levels of the administration” to urge them to reconsider the tariffs.

He also said the new tariffs could hurt the chances of Congress approving the revised North American Free Trade Agreement, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which NAM supports.

The Business Roundtable expressed a similar sentiment about the USMCA, while adding that it would be a “grave error” to impose unilateral tariffs.

“Business Roundtable 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,” the group said in a statement.

The tariff will increase by 5 percent each month until it reaches 25 percent “unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory,” the president said in statement Thursday.

Consumers may soon feel the effects of the tariffs. Mexico became the top U.S. trading partner this year, though America imports more goods from China. The U.S. imported $346.5 billion in goods from Mexico last year, according to government figures.

Trump has already imposed a 25 percent tariff on some $250 billion of Chinese imports, and has threatened to impose tariffs on an additional $300 billion.

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas said the Mexico tariffs would hit fresh food, imposing as much as $3 billion in tariffs on agricultural imports if the rate rises to 25 percent.

“This is a tax on healthy diets, plain and simple,” said President Lance Jungmeyer. “With the obesity epidemic, this is completely unacceptable and counterproductive in dealing with the migrant issue at hand.”

The National Retail Federation, the largest retail trade association in the U.S., warned that the new tariffs on Mexican goods will hit consumers in their pocketbooks.

“The growing tariff bill paid by U.S. businesses and consumers is adding up and will raise the cost of living for American families," senior vice president for government relations David French said in a statement. “Forcing Americans to pay more for produce, electronics, auto parts and clothes isn’t the answer to the nation’s immigration challenges, and this certainly won’t help move USMCA forward.”

Meanwhile, the head of the National Pork Producers Council said the group hopes Trump will reconsider his plans.

“Over the last year, trade disputes with Mexico and China have cost hard-working U.S. pork producers and their families approximately $2.5 billion,” president David Herring said in a statement.

Financial markets dropped on Friday, the first trading day since Trump announced the new tariffs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell over 200 points, dipping below 25,000. The Dow first broke 25,000 in early 2018 but has since become increasingly volatile amid soaring trade tensions.

The National Taxpayers Union, which advocates for lower taxes and free markets, said the Mexico tariffs amounted to "one of the largest tax hikes in American history."