Trade-War Drums: Is Mexico Ready to Fire at the US Corn Belt? by Don Quijones

If you levy penalties on another nation’s exports into your nation, they can levy penalties on your exports into their nation. For Mexico, the nuclear option would be penalties on US corn exports. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

Various groups are clamoring for it in the third largest market for US food exports.

Mexico, the birthplace of maize, is dangerously hooked on U.S. imports of largely transgenic strains of the crop. In 2017 it was the third biggest importer of corn in the world, behind the EU and Japan, purchasing 15.2 million tonnes of the foodstuff, most of it from U.S. farmers and agribusinesses. But that could soon change.

Following the U.S. government’s decision to impose steep duties of imports on steel and aluminum from Mexico, Canada and the EU, Mexico, a net importer of US steel, has hit back with tariffs on US products including whisky, cheese, steel, bourbon, and pork. The move has upset U.S. businesses, including pork producers, who now face a 20% tariff on exporting leg and shoulder to Mexico. Mexico is the largest market for US pork exporters. It’s also the third largest market in the world for U.S. agricultural exports as a whole, pipped to the post by China and Canada.

For the moment the Mexican government has ruled outimposing duties on U.S. imports of staple foods such as corn, beans and soy, largely out of fear that it could further fuel food inflation, especially with the Mexican peso once again slumping against the dollar. But calls for such action are rising.

If Trump doubles down on his tariffs while continuing to insist on separate bilateral talks with Canada and Mexico, the Mexican government could end up taking the nuclear option of restricting U.S. imports of corn. Given that the biggest corn-producing states in the U.S. were also among the supporters of Trump in the last election, Mexico’s government has a clear strategic motive for doing so.

“If we want to stop this [trade war] and hit the U.S. government where it really hurts, we should target America’s corn belt by imposing a tariff on imports of U.S. transgenic corn,” said Angel Contreras Carrera, the president of the State Agricultural Union of Corn Producers.

To continue reading: Trade-War Drums: Is Mexico Ready to Fire at the US Corn Belt?

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