US House panel chair vows to try to block tariffs on Mexico goods

Richard Neal says he'll introduce legislation aimed at blocking tariffs on Mexico goods if Trump acts on his threat.

    House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal speaks to reporters [File: Yuri Gripas/Reuters]
    House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal speaks to reporters [File: Yuri Gripas/Reuters]

    The head of the US House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday vowed to take steps aimed at blocking tariffs on Mexican goods if US President Donald Trump moves ahead with his economic threat to levy such imports on Monday.

    "If the president does declare a national emergency and attempt to put these tariffs into place, I will introduce a resolution of disapproval to stop his overreach," Ways and Means chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat, said in a statement calling the Republican president's planned action "an abuse of power".

    Trump has said he will apply tariffs of five percent on Mexican goods if Mexico does not do more to halt the flow of migrants, largely from Central America, across the US-Mexican border. Those tariffs would rise to 25 percent by October 1 if Mexico does not satisfy Trump's demand.

    Trump, who is currently travelling in Europe, tweeted from Ireland that the Washington talks would continue "with the understanding that, if no agreement is reached, Tariffs at the 5 percent level will begin on Monday, with monthly increases as per schedule."

    Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard spent several hours at the State Department on Thursday morning, and additional talks were expected in the afternoon at the White House between Trump's legal counsel and other Mexican aides. But it remained unclear what kind of deal could be struck with Trump out of the country, and US officials were preparing for the tariffs to kick in barring major Mexican action.

    A resolution of disapproval would have to be approved by both the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican-led Senate where there has been a backlash among some Republican senators against Trump's plan to impose new tariffs on Mexico. Even if such a resolution passes both chambers, it is unclear whether Congress could override a Trump veto.

    Lack of Republican support

    Beyond Trump and several White House advisers, few in the administration believe imposing tariffs is a good idea, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations. 

    Those individuals worry about the negative economic consequences for Americans and believe the tariffs, which would likely prompt retaliatory taxes on US exports, would also hurt the administration politically, according to these officials who were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. 

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    The tariffs carry enormous economic implications for both countries, and politically they underscore a major ideological split between Trump and his party. Trump has increasingly relied on tariffs as a bludgeon to try to force other nations to bend to his will, dismissing warnings, including from fellow Republicans, about the likely effects on American manufacturers and consumers.

    Carmakers were pressing Republican politicians in the US Congress to contact the White House to try to convince the president not to move forward with the tariffs, people briefed on the matter told Reuters News Agency.

    US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday there was "not much support" among his fellow Republicans for the tariffs.

    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican, told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday he thinks the president should focus on winning congressional approval of the renegotiated US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) to replace NAFTA.

    The tariff dispute "raises a needless question when there is a victory at hand" in advancing the new trade deal, Grassley said. 

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    Trump "is on the cusp of a victory. He ought to assume that victory," Grassley added.

    The immigration issue came into sharper focus on Wednesday with the news that US border officers said they apprehended more than 132,000 people crossing from Mexico in May, the highest monthly total in more than a decade

    Most migrants and asylum seekers trying to enter the United States are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, countries wracked by gangs, violence and poverty.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies