Colorado, and the rest of the nation, are watching nervously to see if President Donald Trump imposes tariffs on imports from Mexico.
Trump, who proposed the new tariffs in a tweet last week, has set a deadline of Monday to start imposing tariffs on Mexican imports unless Mexico takes sufficient action to stem the flow of Central American migrants crossing the border into the United States.
The tariffs would begin at 5% and increase by 5% per month until they reach 25%.
Mexico was the United States’ second-largest supplier of imported goods in 2018, according to Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Those imports, valued at $346.5 billion in 2018, represent 13% of imports to the U.S. and is second only to China.
Imports from Mexico to Colorado were valued at $1.53 billion in 2018, and the state’s exports to Mexico were valued at $1.25 billion last year, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. Mexico was Colorado’s second-largest international export market in 2018 and third-largest import market.
Don Shawcroft, president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, said the tariffs are a concern for Colorado agriculture, in part because of the potential for Mexico to retaliate.
“I wouldn’t be surprised” if Mexico took that step, Shawcroft said. “It’s a typical move” and one that shouldn’t surprise the president, either.
That would hit Colorado agriculture, especially beef exports, hard, Shawcroft said. Agriculture “has literally taken the brunt of punishment” from tariffs imposed by other nations such as China, he said.
Food is a commodity that can be purchased from anywhere, meaning once Colorado agriculture becomes too expensive, nations will turn elsewhere.
That’s happened in the trade war with China. According to CNBC, Mexico has benefited from the U.S.-China trade war, with the United States importing products from Mexico that it previously imported from China. But that could come to a halt with a tariff on Mexican imports.
“There’s plenty of uncertainty in agriculture” without another tariff, Shawcroft added. “We are holding out hope for good talks” between the U.S. and Mexico “but this is making us nervous.”
In 2017, Mexico imported about $270 million in Colorado beef and pork products, the top two commodities exported from Colorado.
The impact to Coloradans of a new tariff on imports from Mexico could be as much as $382 million annually, if a 25% tariff comes to fruition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says.
Some of the members of Colorado’s congressional delegation are weighing in on whether they support the imposition of tariffs. It’s largely “no.” The question then becomes whether they’re willing to act.
And all eyes are on Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, named the Senate’s most vulnerable Republican for the 2020 elections.
Gardner told Bloomberg News on Monday that tariffs are “a bad idea, plain and simple.” His office declined to comment about whether his opposition would include efforts to overturn Trump’s authority.
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet said “tariffs on Mexico will hurt American consumers, workers, and businesses, and will do absolutely nothing to solve the real challenges on our border. The fact that the president is conflating the two only shows how little he knows about both issues.”
The Trump administration continues to negotiate with Mexican officials over immigration in an effort to stave off the tariffs.