Idea to Tax Mexican Imports Unnerving to Business Owners, Consumers

On Thursday, the Trump administration downplayed the idea of imposing a 20-percent tax on imports from Mexico to pay for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump was merely floating the idea, not making an official policy proposal. In 2015 the U.S. had a $50 billion trade deficit with Mexico. Spicer said the import tax would provide the funding needed to fulfill one of the president's major campaign promises.

"Our country's policy is to tax exports and to let imports flow freely, which is ridiculous," Spicer said. "If you tax at $50 billion at 20-percent of imports, which is by the way, a practice that 160 other countries do right now, by doing it that way we could do $10 billion a year and easily pay for the wall just through that mechanism alone."

The idea was unnerving to some business owners in North Texas. Jose Espinoza, who owns a furniture store in the Dallas Design District, said a tax on imports would likely be passed on to the customer.

"It's now going to be more expensive to bring my products here to the U.S.," he said. "That 20 percent is going to be passed down on to them for it to make sense for me to continue my business. If it passes we're going to have to shift our strategy to be competitive."

An import tax would hit Texas hard and would require renegotiating the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement with Mexico, the United States' third largest trading partner. Imposing the tax would likely force grocery stores across North Texas to raise prices on products imported from Mexico to cover the cost.

That's a startling prospect for Teresa Murphy, a mother of five who depends on government assistance. She said if the idea becomes policy it's going to be a struggle to provide food for her boys.

"I shop here because it's affordable," Murphy said, loading two of her sons into her van outside the El Rio Grande Latin Market.

Murphy said rising food costs would force her to find somewhere else to shop.

"Kroger doesn't sell the stuff they sell here. How else are we going to eat?" she said.

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