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Trump Says U.S. Will Impose New Tariffs On Mexico Over Illegal Border Crossings


Tonight President Trump said the U.S. will begin imposing tariffs on all goods from Mexico until that country takes what he calls effective action to stop migrants. The president announced the action in a series of tweets. Then on a conference call, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters that escalating tariffs will start at 5% in June.


MICK MULVANEY: If the Mexican government is unwilling to assist us in resolving the situation on our southern border, that tariff will go to 10% on July 1, 15% on August 1, 20% on September 1 and 25% on October 1.

SHAPIRO: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is here to explain what this means. Hi, Mara.


SHAPIRO: OK, the president is using something called the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to sanction Mexico. Who is actually going to pay these tariffs?

LIASSON: Well, no surprise - Americans are going to pay these tariffs in the form of higher prices from all the goods that come over the border from Mexico, many of which are actually manufactured by American companies in Mexico. Every single good from Mexico is going to be subject to these tariffs. And on this conference call with Mick Mulvaney, he was asked, does the president understand that Mexico is not going to pay these tariffs; Americans will? And the answer was, Americans are paying right now in the cost of illegal immigration. And national security is the first and foremost priority of the president, and he has to do this.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about the legality of this.

LIASSON: Well, it's going to be challenged in court. And the other question - NAFTA, or NAFTA 2.0, the USMCA, the renegotiated and updated NAFTA, is about to be presented to Congress. The president wants Congress to pass it - to ratify it. And we asked Mick Mulvaney, well, doesn't this complicate that? He said this is completely separate. That's a trade treaty. This is a national security, immigration matter. But of course the Mexican government is going to see this as a monkey wrench in the NAFTA process.

SHAPIRO: And what would it take for Mexico to stop migrants from entering its southern border?

LIASSON: According to the White House, it would be very easy - that they could stop the unlawful flow of migrants; they can interdict them on their southern border; they can tighten up the border with Guatemala. And the president and his top officials make it sound like it's very easy but that Mexico, according to the president's statement, has been passively cooperating in allowing this mass incursion.

SHAPIRO: Is there any indication of what would satisfy the White House for meeting the threshold of adequately stopping this flow of migrants?

LIASSON: Well, that's a very good question. And Mick Mulvaney was asked that. He said, we're not going to put out a specific number, but we want the number of people crossing the border - he didn't make a distinction between illegal and legal asylum-seekers and others. He said, we will judge success by the number of people crossing the border. It needs to come down substantially. So once again the president has returned to his go-to issue, which is what he calls an invasion, in his statement, by hundreds of thousands of people coming through Mexico.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Mara Liasson on new tariffs. The president announced tonight on goods coming into the U.S. from Mexico. Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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