North America is grappling this week with President Donald Trump’s threat to completely close the southern border, and in the back-and-forth, Trump has even lost the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who’s stuck by his side through an array of previous outlandish moves. For weeks, he wouldn’t even participate in negotiations to get the government reopened after Trump refused to approve any further funding without billions for a southern border wall.
This time around, he told reporters:
‘We certainly have a crisis at the border. I think the president’s right about that. Closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that sort of thing.’
Although there remains no evidence for Trump’s claims that immigrants pose some special criminal threat to the United States, McConnell is right on when it comes to his assessment of the economic consequences that would follow a complete or even partial closure of the southern United States border. Every day, an estimated $1.6 billion worth of goods crosses the border, and that trade isn’t just for the heck of it! Although there’s been some high-profile reporting about products like avocados that would soon run out in the case of a border shutdown, crucial other industries would also be intensely affected.
The Center for Automotive Research’s Vice President Kristin Dziczek told NPR that following a border shutdown:
‘We’ll see auto production in the U.S. shut down pretty quickly. Some within hours and certainly the whole industry within days.’
As she explained, 37 percent of automotive parts shipped into the U.S. come from Mexico, which lets her be comfortable asserting that every vehicle manufactured in the U.S. has a Mexican part in it.
Trump has actually targeted North American car manufacturing before, although not this strenuously. The terms of his update to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for instance, include a requirement for 75 percent of a car’s components to originate in the U.S., Mexico, or Canada for the vehicle to qualify for tariff-free shipment. (That’s up from the NAFTA standard of automobile’s being at least 62.5 percent North American.)
That’s a rare legislative reflection of his consistent rhetoric against goods from outside the U.S. Routinely, when companies have made even the slightest move to support international operations, he’s laid on the criticism, claiming everything from disloyalty to incoming steep tariffs on imports.
Still, giving even the veil of legislative legitimacy to his latest threats against the border would probably be too much. This week at the White House, he completely dismissed the possible impact on the American economy of a border closure, telling reporters:
‘Sure it’s going to have a negative impact on the economy… but to me — trading is very important, the borders are very important, but security is what’s most important to me.’
What about what’s most important to the people who could be out of work in close to no time at all if the southern U.S. border gets cut off?
Trump has proven his commitment to his policy platform above economic concerns before, letting hundreds of thousands of government workers languish for over a month without pay during that shutdown. His aides have insisted we take his threat to close the border seriously, but only time will tell what he does.
Featured Image via screenshot