US border town fears possible tax on imports
For up to 16 hours a day, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and mangoes grown in Mexico flow north through a border checkpoint into Nogales, Arizona, helping to ensure a year-round supply of fresh produce across the United States.
This is a city built on crossborder trade.
Each year, some 330,000 trucks and 75,000 train cars carrying $17 billion worth of goods move through Nogales, according to US Customs and Border Protection. Economists estimate trade supports nearly one in three jobs here, ranging from workers who inspect the goods to forklift operators who unload them in distribution centers.
In many ways, Nogales represents the flip side of free trade deals that have battered industrial cities in the Midwest, where jobs have been outsourced and manufacturing plants shut down. The cities where Donald Trump’s promise to throttle what he calls unfair competition resonated most profoundly during the presidential campaign.
Tall, rusted fence
It also represents potential risks that new trade barriers could pose for businesses and residents along the border. Only a tall, rusted fence separates Nogales, Arizona, from Nogales, Mexico; the cities are so intertwined that locals call them by a single name, “Ambos Nogales” or “Both Nogales”.
Now in office, Trump is considering a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico, one of several ideas under review in Washington, and is promising to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
More than a dozen city offi- cials, employers and workers interviewed here said a border tax, if enacted, could choke the flow of imports from Mexico. They described a chain of events that would harm the economy, threaten local jobs and lead to higher prices for US consumers.
“President Trump should take a good look at the effects of whatever he does, because he’s going to end up with a real problem,” said Nogales Mayor John Doyle, who joined other lawmakers from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in denouncing the import tax plan in letters to US lawmakers.
President Trump should take a good look at the effects of whatever he does.” John Doyle, Nogales mayor
Food, autos and electronics go both ways across the border checkpoint, sometimes more than once. Mexican mangoes and melons come north while California almonds and apples from Washington state go south. US car parts sent to Mexican factories are imported back as finished vehicles.
The Trump administration said that any tax deal would protect US interests.
“US people can rest assured that any policy President Trump pursues will be designed to increase wages for American workers, reduce the US trade deficit, and strengthen the economy so that it works for all,” a White House official said in an email.