President Trump dropped a trade war bomb on Thursday when he announced his intent to put in place new and harsh tariffs on goods from Mexico until the “illegal Immigration problem is remedied.” And among the many worried, negative reactions was one from Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, in a strongly worded statement. “Trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent,” the statement begins. “Following through on this threat would seriously jeopardize passage USMCA, a central campaign pledge of President Trump’s and what could be a big victory for the country.” Putting this in the context of harming Trump’s own signature USMCA (the replacement for NAFTA) is a smart frame, an effort to show that the tariffs are in conflict with the administration’s own trade goals.First Tramp thinks NAFTA is the worst trade deal ever but NAFTA 1.1 is beautiful. But now Trump wants to start a new trade war with Mexico because he did not get his racist wall? OK! Of course Trump is not the only one with a twitter account and Paul Krugman has joined Senator Grassley with lines like:
Leave the economics on one side, and consider the supposed legal justification. U.S. trade law gives the president huge discretion to impose tariffs, as long as he is willing to make bizarre claims – i.e., Canadian steel threatens national security. But imposing tariffs without Congressional approval to serve goals that have nothing to do with trade policy – in this case, an immigration crisis that exists only in his mind – goes well beyond even the brazenness of his previous actions. So he's claiming justification under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act, which he claims basically lets him do anything he wants in response to anything he declares to be an emergency. I don't see any limits under this interpretation. Could he, for example, impose punitive tariffs on Swiss watches because Swiss newspapers run cartoons that make fun of him? Why not?Krugman continues by noting some basic economics:
OK, the economics: What we import from Mexico are a lot of consumer items, especially food items, plus Mexico is a key part of the supply chain in various manufactures, especially autos. So this would hurt U.S. consumers and also hurt competitiveness of U.S. companies. So this would be stagflationary: higher inflation plus lost jobs. Industry would howl. Also very nasty for U.S. farmers if Mexico retaliates. Plus we are, of course, throwing away any remaining credibility as a negotiating partner.Let’s also think about the Mexican economy which will be hurt by these tariffs. And if employment prospects decline in Mexico, this will likely increase the immigration flows from Mexico. So Trump’s latest insanity will only increase what he sees as a major problem. Yes – our President is a very stupid person.