Mexico is ready to hit the United States where it hurts the most: corn.
Mexico is one of the largest buyers of US corn in the world today. And Mexican Senator Armando Ríos Piter, who heads a congressional foreign relations committee, says he will present a bill this week in which Mexico will buy corn from Brazil and Argentina instead of the United States.
It is one of the first signs of possible concrete actions by Mexico in response to President Trump’s threats against the country.
“I’m going to send an invoice for the corn that we’re buying in the Midwest and … switch to Brazil or Argentina,” Rios Piter, 43, told CNN’s Leyla Santiago on Sunday in a Protest against Trump in Mexico City.
He added: It’s a “good way of telling them that this hostile relationship has consequences, I hope it changes.”
American corn enters much of the country’s food. In Mexico City, from fine dining restaurants to street taco stands, corn-based favorites like tacos can be found everywhere.
Related: Daughter of a Mexican Farmer: NAFTA Destroyed Us
The United States is also the world’s largest producer and exporter of corn. US corn shipments to Mexico have skyrocketed since NAFTA, a free trade agreement signed between Mexico, the United States and Canada.
US farmers shipped $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 came into effect, corn exports to Mexico amounted to just $391 million.
Experts say such a bill would be very costly for American farmers.
“If we do see a trade war where Mexico starts buying from Brazil … we’ll see it affect the corn market and spill over into the rest of the agricultural economy,” says Darin Newsom, senior analyst at DTN, a management firm. agricultural.
Ríos Piter’s bill is another sign of Mexico’s willingness to respond to Trump’s threats. Trump wants Mexico to pay for a border wall and has threatened taxes on Mexican imports ranging from 20% to 35%.
Trump also wants to renegotiate NAFTA. He blames it for a rush of manufacturing jobs in Mexico. A nonpartisan conference research report found that is not true.
Related: Mexico doubles down on Trump’s ‘contingency plan’
Still, Trump says he wants a better trade deal for American workers, though he hasn’t said what a better deal would look like.
All sides signaled two weeks ago that talks would start in May after a 90-day consultation period.
But Trump says that if the negotiations do not result in the deal he wants, he is threatening to withdraw from NAFTA.
Such a harsh speech is not well received by Mexican leaders like Ríos Piter. He is not alone. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said in January that Mexico would respond “immediately” to any Trump tariffs.
“It is very clear that we have to be prepared to be able to immediately neutralize the impact of a measure of this nature,” Guajardo said on January 13 in a Mexican news program.
–Shasta Darlington contributed reporting to this story
CNNMoney (Mexico City) First Posted Feb 13, 2017: 12:06pm ET