By Jerry Roker
for Bahamas Press
Let’s imagine for a moment that Donald Trump becomes the next U.S. president, and meets his promises to build a 1,000-mile wall along the Mexican border, slap a 35 percent import tax on Mexican car imports and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. How would all of this impact average Americans, and by extension, The Bahamas?
Trump says that these measures would help “make America great again.” But most economists agree that they would make almost everything more expensive for average Americans, and by extension, Bahamians— from the car we drive to the lettuce we buy at the supermarket — and kill many more U.S. jobs than those they would help create. We all know the truism: when the American economy sneezes, we in The Bahamas catch the cold. And most times these colds trick the bush medicine we take for their cure, for years.
Let’s start with Trump’s idea to build a border wall. It’s a dubious U.S. priority at a time when, according to U.S. Census figures compiled by the Pew Research Center, illegal migration from Mexico has dropped dramatically since 2008.
Furthermore, assuming that Trump’s proposed wall costs “only” $10 billion, as he claims, it may be a waste of money: more than 40 percent of undocumented immigrants don’t enter the United States by crossing the southern border, but come in by air with tourist visas, and overstay their visas. A border wall would do nothing to stop them. His preoccupation then, with this ‘wall’ then, seems a bit silly. He obviously is simply pandering to his base. Targeting Mexican immigrants, can only be considered racist. Bahamians, please take note. The Mexicans today, tomorrow, who knows.
As for Trump’s constant assertion that “Mexico will pay for the wall,” that won’t happen. When recently asked about this, former Mexican President Vicente Fox laughed and said, “He’s crazy!” In fact he so scorned Mr. Trump’s wall proposal, he used an expletive in denouncing it.
Trump says that he would make Mexico pay for the wall by slapping a 35 percent tax on Mexican car imports. When CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer asked him during the Feb. 25 Republican debate whether he would start a trade war with Mexico, Trump responded, “Well, you know, I don’t mind trade wars when we’re losing $58 billion a year.”
Sounds very brave, but it’s based on a deceiving statistic. It hides the fact that about 40 percent of the content of U.S. imports from Mexico is of U.S. origin, according to a 2015 report on NAFTA’S impact by the U.S. Congressional Research Service. In other words, cars, auto parts and other products are often assembled in Mexico with many U.S. components.
Slapping a 35 percent tax on these imports would substantially raise the price of these goods in the United States. The price of a Ford Fusion car, which is made in Mexico and sells for about $24,000 in the United States, would go up to more than $32,000.
And producing more expensive cars would also make U.S. cars less competitive in world markets. If anything, Trump’s trade war with Mexico would make Japan great again.
Also, if Trump scrapped the NAFTA free trade deal to impose his 35 percent tariff on Mexican imports , Mexico would start charging U.S. goods with its average 7.5 percent import duty for products from countries with which it doesn’t have free trade deals. That would hurt U.S. exporters badly, because Mexico is the world’s second largest buyer of U.S. goods, after Canada.
Last year, Mexico imported $236 billion worth of U.S. products, more than China, Japan and Germany together. A trade war with Mexico could cost 6 million U.S. jobs, according to U.S. Chamber of Commerce figures.
Finally, Trump’s idea to deport the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants would not only separate millions of parents from their children and turn the United States into a police state like China or Cuba, but would also raise the price of most labor-intensive goods — from food to housing — for average Americans, and also Bahamians.
Many Trump supporters may dismiss these arguments saying that, as president, their candidate would me more flexible. To his base, ‘the angry white male,’ their response is likely to be: so what!
Mr. Trump seem to be as brash and rigid as he comes across on camera. At first, no one took him seriously, but with his overwhelming lead in the delegate count going into the Wisconsin primary next week, it’s so important to imagine a Trump presidency, and look closely into the potential impact of his campaign proposals. In my view, with Mr. Trump, what you see is what you get. And in politics, one never knows.