White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday defended US President Donald Trump's plan to impose tariffs on all goods from Mexico over concerns of illegal immigration, despite wide-ranging criticism from politicians, scholars and business leaders, reported Xinhua.
"The president is deadly serious about fixing the situation at the southern border," Mulvaney said on Fox News, adding that things have to get better "quickly".
Trump said on Thursday he would impose a five-percent tariff on all imported Mexican goods beginning June 10 so as to pressure the country to halt undocumented migrants crossing the border, and will gradually increase tariffs until the problem is remedied, a move that worries many.
Republican senator Chuck Grassley, chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee, blasted the president's decision.
"Trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent," Grassley said.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer argued that the announced tariffs on Mexico could jeopardise the ratification of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a proposed replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement that is already facing a bumpy road in the Democrat-controlled House, the Wall Street Journal cited people familiar with the situation as saying.
If tariffs can be raised by "unilateral presidential decree", linked to border policy, not the economic relationship, markets will realise that it's not likely for the US president to deliver a trade deal with its trade partners, said Adam Posen, president of the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics.
In 2018, the United States imported US$346.5 billion (RM1.4 trillion) worth of goods from Mexico, according to the Department of Commerce.
When asked about potential price increases, Mulvaney said inflation is still "under control" even after Washington imposed additional tariffs on its trading partners, arguing that it's "relatively easy to substitute other goods".
Mulvaney's optimism, however, is not shared by the business community.
"These tariffs will be paid by American families and businesses without doing a thing to solve the very real problems at the border," said Neil Bradley, executive vice-president and chief policy officer at the US Chamber of Commerce, calling the proposed measures "exactly the wrong move."
David Herring, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said "American pork producers cannot afford retaliatory tariffs from its largest export market, tariffs which Mexico will surely implement."
"We appeal to President Trump to reconsider plans to open a new trade dispute with Mexico," said Herring.