Sen. Mitt Romney warns of ‘increasingly harmful consequence’ for American consumers if Trump imposes tariffs on imports from Mexico

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Sen. Mitt Romney meets state lawmakers at the Utah Capitol as he speaks with members of the Democratic House Caucus during a series of meetings, Feb. 21, 2019.

Washington • Sen. Mitt Romney warned Friday that President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs against Mexico were the wrong approach and could harm Americans more than they help curtail illegal immigration.

“A tariff targeting Mexico that negatively impacts our own interests will only end in a waiting game of increasingly harmful consequence to the American people,” Romney said.

Trump announced Thursday that he would impose tariffs on all Mexican imports, starting June 10, if the country didn’t do more to thwart a surge of immigrants coming to the U.S. southern border. Those tariffs, initially a 5 percent penalty, would increase each month, up to 25 percent, the president said.

The comments escalated several trade wars the president has started that have left American businesses worried about the economic impact. Farmers, especially those in red states that supported Trump, have been hit hard by tariffs on U.S. exports in retaliation for sanctions imposed on China.

The Washington Post reported that the consequences of Trump’s proposed Mexican tariffs could be severe, forcing American consumers to pay more for everything from avocados to automobiles. Mexico exported $346 billion in goods to the United States last year, the Post reported, including materials used by American manufacturers.

Romney, a freshman senator who has been critical of Trump at times, said the tariff threat isn’t the best move and there are other actions that would produce better results.

“Our focus should remain on securing the southwest border with a barrier, making E-Verify mandatory, and passing legislation that plugs legal loopholes,” Romney said. E-Verify is the government program that allows employers to check the immigration status of job applicants.

Miles Hansen, president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, warned that the proposed tariffs will hurt trade with one of the country’s most important trading partners.

“We do 80% more trade with Mexico and Canada than we do with China,” Hansen said. “Mexico is also a very important trading partner for Utah, particularly in the agriculture industry.”

Hansen praised President Trump for his recent move to lift steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada — action that cleared the biggest obstacle to approving a new trade agreement between the three North American countries.

“Now the proposed tariffs undercut that momentum,” he warned.