President Trump on Thursday backed away from his threat to close the border this week, saying he would give Mexico a year to halt the flow of migrants and drugs.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he would place auto tariffs on Mexico if its government has not done enough to address the problems during the coming year, and after that would close the border.
“You know I will do it. I don’t play games,” he said. “If Mexico doesn’t apprehend these people coming, we’re going to tax the cars. And if that doesn’t work, we’re going to close the border.”
The migrants seeking asylum are largely from impoverished, violence-prone Central American countries, not Mexico, but must travel though that country to reach the United States.
The cars and car parts exported from Mexico are made by U.S., Japanese and German automakers in plants that they own.
Trump’s announcement was welcomed by the business community, which had warmed of dire economic consequences if the border was closed. Daily cross-border trade totals almost $2 billion, and the auto industry was predicting many U.S. plants would close within a week if supply chains were interrupted.
“We welcome the President’s decision not to close the Mexican border,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Congress and the president should take this opportunity to enact border security and immigration reform.”
“Congress should also ensure Customs and Border Protection officials receive the resources they need to reduce the excessive wait times affecting legitimate trade and travel across the border,” he added.
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