WASHINGTON (AP) – White House spokesman Sean Spicer says President Trump is calling for a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico to pay for southern border wall.
“When you look at the plan that’s taking shape now, using comprehensive tax reform as a means to tax imports from countries that we have a trade deficit from, like Mexico,” Spicer told the traveling press pool. “If you tax that $50 billion at 20 percent of imports – which is, by the way, a practice that 160 other countries do – right now our country’s policy is to tax exports and let imports flow freely in, which is ridiculous. By doing it that we can do $10 billion a year and easily pay for the wall just through that mechanism alone. That’s really going to provide the funding.”
Spicer did not give any details about how the tax would work but he described it as the start of a process that would be part of an overall tax reform. Spicer then went on to say it was a decision that President Trump made.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said earlier today that Trump’s border wall will cost $12 billion to $15 billion — and Ryan said that Congress will pay for it by this fall.
The Wisconsin Republican made his comments to reporters in Philadelphia, where GOP lawmakers are holding their annual strategy retreat.
Ryan was pressed on whether the wall’s price tag would be added to the deficit — or whether Congress would find some ways to offset the cost. But he wouldn’t commit.
The point, Ryan says, is that Congress will pay for “the construction of a physical barrier on the border.”
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a planned Tuesday meeting with Trump on Thursday, signaling a remarkable souring of relations between Washington and one of its most important international partners just days into the new administration.
The rift capped days of increasingly confrontational remarks — on Twitter and in dueling public appearances — between the two men, whose countries conduct some $1.6 billion a day in cross-border trade, and cooperate on everything from migration to anti-drug enforcement to environmental issues.
Hours after Trump tweeted that the meeting should be scrapped if Mexico doesn’t agree to pay for a wall along the nearly 2,000-mile border, Pena Nieto responded via the same platform.
“This morning we have informed the White House I will not attend the working meeting planned for next Tuesday,” the Mexican president tweeted. He added that “Mexico reaffirms its willingness to work with the United States to reach agreements that benefit both nations.”
In a speech later Thursday, Trump doubled down on the dispute, saying that “unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless, and I want to go a different route. We have no choice.”
Trump also claimed that calling off the meeting was a mutual decision and floated a new possible threat to Mexico, which sends about 80 percent of its exports to the U.S. and which has vowed not to pay for a wall.
“We’re working on a tax reform bill that will reduce our trade deficit, increase American exports and will generate revenue from Mexico that will pay for the wall, if we decide to go that route,” Trump said.
His spokesman later said Trump was calling for a 20 percent tax on imports to pay for the southern wall.
He has also pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.
“I will not allow the citizens or the taxpayers of the United States to pay the cost of this defective transaction, NAFTA, one that should have been renegotiated many years ago, except that the politicians were too preoccupied to do so,” Trump said.
Mexican officials have expressed willingness to update the pact, but said they would consider walking away from NAFTA if negotiations mean making too many concessions.
Mexico is one of America’s biggest trade partners, and the U.S. is the No. 1 buyer from Mexico, accounting for about 80 percent of Mexican exports. A complete rupture in ties could be damaging to the U.S. economy, an disastrous for Mexico’s.
“Today’s events are dangerous for the immediate and long-term security and economy of the United States,” Jason Marczak of the Atlantic Council wrote. “U.S.-Mexico cooperation is far-reaching: from intelligence sharing for the capture of drug traffickers to the flow of commercial goods that support the livelihoods of nearly 5 million American workers.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer later responded to the Mexican president’s tweet, saying: “We’ll look for a date to schedule something in the future. We will keep the lines of communication open.”
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