Target Trump’s base if trade spat worsens, Mexican farm lobby says

A Mexican port-of-entry sign on Highway 92 near Naco, Arizona. (Rex_Wholster/iStock/Getty Images)

Mexico City | Reuters — The Mexican government should target agricultural goods produced in states that have voted for U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party if the trade conflict between the two neighbours worsens, the head of Mexico’s main farm lobby said on Friday.

Bosco de la Vega, head of Mexico’s national farm council CNA, told Reuters that such retaliatory measures should only be applied as a last resort and that he supports the Mexican government’s efforts to first seek a negotiated settlement to the dispute.

De la Vega criticized what he described as Trump’s unjustified “mistreatment” of Mexico by threatening the across-the-board tariffs on the country’s exports and emphasized that any potential retaliation should seek to cause the U.S. leader maximum political pain.

“In the unlikely event that (the U.S. tariffs are enacted), we will be supporting the government in surgically implementing tariffs aimed at farm products in Republican states,” he said.

Mexico has employed the strategy before as a means of pressuring Trump’s base of supporters in rural America, by seeking to convince them his policies are counterproductive.

Noting that Mexican officials are “drawing up a new map” of potential U.S. targets, de la Vega emphasized that such measures should only be taken as a last result after negotiations between both sides run their full course.

Nevertheless, the president of Mexico’s national farm council, which represents the country’s largest private sector agriculture and livestock companies, ticked off potential targets for the Mexican government’s possible retaliation, including U.S. grains like yellow corn, pork legs, apples, potatoes and whiskey.

“This would be a last resort and we have to wait to see if by June 10 they’ve solved it,” he said, referring to the date Trump said an initial five per cent tariff on all Mexican exports would take effect if Mexico fails to stop the flow of migrants into the United States.

“I’m betting that they’re going to solve it,” he added.

For decades, Mexico and the United States have engaged in complementary agricultural trade in which U.S. farmers sell large volumes of yellow corn and select meat cuts, for example, to buyers south of the border, while Mexican producers send products such as avocados and berries, among many others, north.

Last year, Mexico exported some US$26 billion in agricultural products to the United States, according to CNA data.

— Reporting for Reuters by David Alire Garcia and Sharay Angulo.


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