Photo: AFP / Jim Watson

US President Donald Trump was apparently getting bored with his administration’s existing rationales for tariffs, which include alleged unfair trade practices and the national-security necessity of supporting domestic industry.

He has now added a vague goal of fixing the “illegal immigration problem” to that list, threatening to put tariffs on all goods from Mexico until the issue has been resolved.

“On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP. The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

If Mexico does not take action to “dramatically reduce” border crossings, the tariffs will be raised to 25% by October 1, a White House Statement said.

Stakeholders, including representatives from industries that will be directly impacted by such an abrupt change in trade policy, were not consulted or given an opportunity to provide comment before the announcement was made.

It turns out that even Trump’s hawkish trade czar, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, was against the move, fearing that it would jeopardize the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Lighthizer is not happy,” an administration official told The Wall Street Journal.

One former administration official said: “This is something he’s talked about for a long time but people always talked him out of it.”

While the new NAFTA, renamed the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, was facing opposition from Democratic lawmakers, Lighthizer was reportedly making headway in private discussions with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But Lighthizer’s efforts may now be in vain, as Trump’s latest tariff outburst has likely doomed the passage of the USMCA in Mexico, whether or not there is a pathway to ratification in the US.

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