President Donald Trump announced a plan to slap a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to pay for the southern border wall.
Trump hopes the extra money from the tariffs could raise billions of dollars to help construct the controversial wall separating the U.S. and Mexico.
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told journalists on Jan. 26 that the idea was discussed with Republican members of Congress as part of a comprehensive tax reform plan, NBC News reports.
Spicer discussed the plan with reporters in a press conference:
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.
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 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.
The plan comes immediately after Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a meeting with Trump over what experts say was prompted by Trump’s moves to build the contentious wall, and his demand that Mexico pay for it. Nieto has been vocal in saying Mexico will not pay for the wall.
“This morning we informed the White House that I will not attend the business meeting scheduled for next Tuesday with the [president of the United States],” Nieto tweeted.
During his address to a GOP retreat in Philadelphia, Trump declared the decision to scrap the meeting with Nieto Pena was mutual.
“The U.S. has a $60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers…,” Trump tweeted. “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”
Spicer says Trump plans on expanding the import taxes to all countries, not just Mexico, in the future, according to Business Insider. Spicer said the decrease in spending on immigrants in the country illegally would ultimately save money, despite the significant increase in the cost of Mexican imports.
Spicer later softened the tone of the 20 percent tariff idea, saying it was one of a range of possible ways to pay for the wall.
Republicans estimate the wall will cost $12-$15 billion to build.
Sources: Business Insider, NBC News / Photo credit: Sgt. 1st Class Gordon Hyde/Wikimedia Commons