Mexico is ready to hit the United States where it hurts: corn.
Mexico is now one of the largest buyers of American corn in the world. And Mexican Sen. Armando Rios Piter, who heads a congressional foreign relations committee, said he would introduce a bill this week that would have Mexico buy corn from Brazil and Argentina instead of the United States. .
This is one of the first signs of potential concrete action by Mexico in response to President Trump’s threats against the country.
“I’m going to send an invoice for the corn that we buy in the Midwest and … the currency in Brazil or Argentina,” Rios Piter, 43, told CNN’s Leyla Santiago on Sunday during a news conference. Anti-Trump demonstration in Mexico City.
He added: “It’s a ‘good way to tell them that this hostile relationship has consequences, in the hope that it changes.’
American corn is a component of a large part of the country’s diet. In Mexico City, from fine dining restaurants to street taco stands, corn favorites like tacos can be found everywhere.
Related: Daughter of a Mexican Farmer: NAFTA Destroyed Us
America is also the world’s largest producer and exporter of corn. Shipments of American corn to Mexico have exploded since NAFTA, a free trade agreement signed between Mexico, America and Canada.
U.S. farmers sent $2.4 billion worth of corn to Mexico in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. In 1995, the year after NAFTA took effect, corn exports to Mexico were worth just $391 million.
Experts say such a bill would cost American farmers dearly.
“If we do see a trade war where Mexico starts buying from Brazil…we’re going to see it affect the corn market and ripple through the rest of the agricultural economy,” says Darin Newsom, senior analyst at DTN. an agricultural management company.
Rios Piter’s bill is another sign of Mexico’s willingness to respond to Trump’s threats. Trump wants to make Mexico pay for building a border wall and threatens to tax Mexican imports by 20 to 35%.
Trump also wants to renegotiate NAFTA. He credits it for an influx of manufacturing jobs in Mexico. A non-partisan Congress research The report found that this was not true.
Read: Mexico redoubles its efforts in the face of Trump’s “emergency plan”
Still, Trump says he wants a better trade deal for American workers — even though he hasn’t specified what a better deal would look like.
All parties indicated two weeks ago that negotiations would begin in May after a 90-day consultation period.
But Trump says if negotiations don’t produce the deal he wants, he is threatening to pull out of NAFTA.
Such harsh words are not well received by Mexican leaders like Rios Piter. He is not alone. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said in January that Mexico would respond “immediately” to any tariffs imposed by Trump.
“It is very clear that we must be ready to immediately neutralize the impact of a measure of this nature,” Guajardo said Jan. 13 on a Mexican news show.
–Shasta Darlington contributed reporting to this story
CNNMoney (Mexico) First published February 13, 2017: 12:06 p.m. ET