- Mexico and the European Union hit the US with tariffs in response to President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminium tariffs.
- The EU and Mexico targeted specific goods like pork and cranberries, which will put pressure on areas of the US that supported Trump in the 2016 election.
- The allies also targeted items from the home states of specific political leaders, likely in an attempt to induce change.
The European Union and Mexico struck back President Donald Trump’s trade threats, and the two countries appear to be trying to send a message with their retaliation.
Both the EU and Mexico announced retaliatory tariffs on US goods in response to Trump’s decision to impose steel and aluminium tariffs on imports from the two key allies. The moves follow a similar announcement from Canada.
The two groups’ newly released list of products that would be subject to tariffs appear to focus on two main categories: metals and agricultural products.
In its announcement, the Mexican government said “it is necessary and urgent to impose measures equivalent to the measures implemented by” US to protect Mexican industries.
Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow for Latin American Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that Mexico’s strategy became clear through the list of goods that the country is targeting.
“This menagerie wasn’t haphazard,” O’Neil wrote. “Instead, it was designed to gain both economic justice and political leverage, targeting key congressional districts and Trump supporters.”
Mexico’s list leaned heavily on different types of pork products, since the country is the main export market for the meat. The focus on pork also serves to make a political statement: According to Census Bureau data, 10 out of the top 15 states for pork exports to Mexico voted for Trump in the 2016 election.
This isn’t the first time Mexico employed a similar trade tactic to try to extract concessions from the US. In 2009, the Mexican government slapped tariffs on political important goods to protest the US’s refusal to abide by North American Free Trade Agreement rules on trucking.
After increasing pressure from the Mexican government, the Obama administration eventually relented and changed rules to allow Mexican truckers to enter the US more efficiently.
Both the EU and Canada are following suit.
The EU’s target of cranberries, roughly half of which are exported from the key state of Wisconsin, according to the Census Bureau data. Also, four out of the top five states for non-prepared rice exports to the EU – another target of the tariffs – voted for Trump in the election.
On the Canadian end, three of the top five states that stand to lose the most from Canada’s tariffs are the key swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan.
O’Neil said that even the non-agricultural goods that make up the EU, Canadian, and Mexican tariffs lists are designed to send a message.
“Canada and the EU are joined in the fight, and their initial lists look notably similar to Mexico’s initial trucking foray, penalising cosmetics, manicure and pedicure products, felt tip pens, toilet paper, and hair products among dozens of others items produced in targeted congressional districts of influential House members,” she said.
By targeting goods like bourbon from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky and motorcycles from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s district in Wisconsin, the allies appear to be trying to send a message to those political leaders as well.
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