Texas border town feels stress of Trump tariff threat against Mexico

The change was caused, in part, by another strained trade relationship that developed under the Trump administration. The Port of Los Angeles’s top trading country is China, and the ongoing trade war between the two nations contributed to a 3 percent decline in trade through the California port in the first four months of 2019.

But some here worry that Mexico could eventually lose patience with the Trump administration’s trade tactics, souring the relationship.

The need for trade with Mexico is readily apparent to Ruben Norton, 36, who runs a sporting goods store with his father just blocks from the border checkpoint. Their business, first opened in 1947, is dependent on that cross-border commerce.

“Without Mexico, this place and Laredo is a ghost town,” Norton said, gesturing around his store. “With everything we’re doing, at what point do we jab them enough that Mexico just gives us the middle finger?”

The end of the tariff threat?

Friday’s announcement did not necessarily indicate the end of tensions.

The U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration states that the two countries would “continue their discussions on the terms of additional understandings to address irregular migrant flows and asylum issues, to be completed and announced within 90 days, if necessary.”

The New York Times reported Saturday that the two neighbors had come to this agreement months ago, leading to allegations the president had manufactured both the crisis and its conclusion.

The president denied the Times report Sunday morning on Twitter.

A White House official confirmed to NBC News that Mexico had already agreed to send troops to its southern border and take U.S. asylum seekers as they wait for their legal cases in the U.S. to proceed, as The Times had reported. In the latest declaration, Mexico will send 600 more soldiers to its southern border and speed up its timeline for other portions of the agreement.

The official noted the White House planned to take a wait-and-see approach, leaving enough room to force another negotiation if the president finds Mexico’s actions ineffective.

The possibility of more negotiations and Trump’s tweet on Sunday that the United States “can always go back to our previous, very profitable, position of Tariffs,” offers little comfort to the people of Laredo, where a level of fear and uncertainty continues to linger despite the relief some felt Friday night after the announcement.

“It’s great we don’t have them starting Monday. That’s awesome,” Gonzalez said. “No one has to worry about Monday. I don’t have to worry about Tuesday and Mexico retaliating. But what happens in 90 days? As we get closer, this administration seems to like to do things at the last minute. Every administration likes to do things different, but how do businesses plan for that? It causes chaos.”

This business community has already felt the squeeze of the Trump administration’s tariffs.

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