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Mexico Responds With Tariffs After U.S. Imposes Duties On Steel And Aluminum


What do Washington State apples, Tennessee whiskey and Idaho potatoes have in common? Well, you'd be correct if you guessed Mexico just slapped tariffs on all of them. The move announced this morning is in retaliation against the duties that President Trump imposed on imported steel and aluminum last week. Here's NPR's Carrie Kahn.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Produce sellers at this regular Tuesday street market near downtown Mexico City hawk local seasonal fare.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: They've got plump mangoes, deep-orange papayas and bright-red watermelons. Adrian Hernandez says his clients, though, like the imports - green and red Washington state apples - but maybe not for long.

ADRIAN HERNANDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Soon these are all about to get really expensive," says Hernandez. Mexico announced it's slapping 20 percent tariffs on apples and pork items. Other products including whiskey and cheese will see duties as high as 25 percent. While Hernandez says he might do some business, he's glad Mexico is finally fighting back against President Trump.

HERNANDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "It's about time they did something. Trump has crossed too many lines. It's time we stood up to him," he says. And Mexican economist Luis de la Calle says officials here took a good swing at Trump.

LUIS DE LA CALLE: Mr. President, what you are doing is not correct. I mean, Mexico and Canada are not a problem.

KAHN: De la Calle, who helped negotiate the original North American Free Trade Agreement back in the 1990s, says the U.S.'s biggest economic problem isn't Mexico. It's China. Picking a fight with its North American friends and neighbors makes no sense.

DE LA CALLE: Mexico is the best weapon the U.S. has to successfully compete with China in the U.S. market and in the Chinese market as well.

KAHN: Underestimating Mexico isn't smart either, says Shannon O'Neil, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

SHANNON O'NEIL: There is an element here of leverage Mexico has despite its smaller size of its economy and its greater dependence on U.S. trade.

KAHN: As much as 80 percent of Mexican exports head to the U.S. O'Neil says clearly Mexico can't win an all-out trade war with the U.S., but it can do some key economic harm to influential Trump constituents.

O'NEIL: It won't be pressure from Mexico City. It will be pressure from the heartland of the United States, from the manufacturing belt in the United States, from the agricultural belt. Those are the areas that can really press President Trump.

KAHN: Back at the outdoor produce market in Mexico City, seller Adrian Hernandez says while the two countries duke it out trade-wise, Mexicans can enjoy their own apples. He's got a big pile of golden yellows from the northern state of Chihuahua.

HERNANDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "They taste way better than those apples from Washington anyway," he says. "And they have far fewer chemicals on them." Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.