President Donald Trump appeared to back off from his previous threat to immediately close the southern border, saying instead that he would give Mexico a year before taking extreme measures to address drug trafficking and illegal immigration.
Trump, who was speaking to reporters in the White House, noted that if the government of Mexico does nothing to tackle these problems in the course of the next year, he would impose auto tariffs on the country and close the border.
“You know I will do it. I don’t play games,” he said, stressing that this was a “one-year warning” to Mexico.
“If the drugs don’t stop, or largely stop, we’re going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular cars. The whole ballgame is cars. And if that doesn’t stop the drugs, we close the border,” Trump added, according to The Hill.
Just last week, President Trump claimed he would shut down the border this week, but on Tuesday he said the decision would rest on a number of factors, such as congressional action and increased enforcement by Mexico.
However, on Wednesday he pointed out that Congress had to act “immediately” to close “loopholes” in U.S. immigration laws.
“If no action, Border, or large sections of Border, will close. This is a National Emergency!” he tweeted.
But lawmakers and business groups have been quite vocal in their warnings that such a move would hit the U.S. economy as Mexico is its third largest goods trading partner. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce notes that almost half a million people cross the border legally every day for that purpose.
Republicans have personally pointed this out to President Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week that shutting down the border “would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that.”
The move could also affect the ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is to replace NAFTA. Trump, however, said that cracking down on illegal immigration was a higher priority than finalizing the trade deal.
“They’re going to have to live with it. The USMCA is a great deal for everybody. This is more important to me than the USMCA,” he said on Thursday.