President Donald Trump says his threat to slap tariffs on Mexican imports was “no bluff.” And yet for the first time a top White House adviser said Wednesday that Trump might very well back down as officials from the two countries prepared to meet, according to a Washington Post report.
“We believe that these tariffs may not have to go into effect precisely because we have the Mexicans’ attention.”
The mixed messages are confusing and confounding members of Congress, of which both sides of the aisle appear ready to revolt over the president’s latest (for now) threat of tariffs.
Peter Navarro, one of Trump’s top trade advisers said on CNN the possibility of tariffs on Mexican imports have prompted negotiations so quickly, with Mexico stepping up to take action, it now appears possible the duties won’t go into effect, at least not as soon as June 10.
“We believe that these tariffs may not have to go into effect precisely because we have the Mexicans’ attention,” Navarro said.
Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are planning to meet with Mexican leaders Wednesday at the White House. Navarro said Mexico must agree to hold asylum seekers south of the U.S. border, increase police activity to stop migrant caravans and do more to seal off its southern border with Central America.
It’s unclear if Mexico has the capabilities to follow through on such demands, so Navarro is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“Let’s stay calm and look at the chessboard here,” Navarro said.
U.S. companies import about $400 billion worth of goods each year, which would cost U.S. companies and consumers more money if the tariffs are to go into effect, hence the opposition even among Republicans who see tariffs as a tax.
The tariffs were planned to start at 5% and rise 5% more each month, up to 25%, driving up the cost of everything from cars to groceries, hitting working class Americans hardest.
Navarro’s comments come after a number of Senate Republicans, warning of the damage such tariffs would do to the economy and U.S. consumers, vowed to block Trump’s tariffs, even threatening to override a presidential veto if it came to it.
They reportedly feel confident in their ability to have enough votes to shoot the tariffs down with a veto-proof super majority.
According to The Washington Post, White House officials are aware of the backlash from within the GOP but have not said whether that will affect whether Trump moves forward to implement the tariffs. Navarro also is a close adviser to the president, though, he often clashes with others in the White House and it’s unclear how unified staff strategy is heading into Wednesday’s meeting.