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How U.S. Businesses Are Reacting To Trump's Plans To Increase Tariffs On Mexico

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're following news that at least 11 victims are dead in a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Va. And we will have more on that story in another part of the program.

First, President Trump is sending a message to Mexico. The U.S. will impose tariffs on all goods coming into this country unless Mexico stops illegal migration.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That message is being heard loud and clear by businesses on this side of the border, and they're not happy about it. Neil Bradley of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it's exactly the wrong move. He joins us now to talk more about why. Neil Bradley, welcome to the program.

NEIL BRADLEY: Thanks for having me, Audie. It's a pleasure.

CORNISH: Now, I understand that the chamber is weighing legal options. Do you have a plan to sue the federal government over this?

BRADLEY: We're actually looking at all of our options, right? Our No. 1 goal is to make sure that these tariffs don't go into effect given the negative impact it would have on American consumers, families and businesses. And so since this was announced last night, we've been looking at our legal options, what options we might have with policymakers on Capitol Hill.

CORNISH: On what grounds would you be able to sue? How is that an option?

BRADLEY: Well, that's what we're looking into at the moment. So this was news to us as it was, I think, to the rest of the world when this was announced last night. And so since then, we've been looking at what legal authorities might underpin this and what options businesses and consumers might have to challenge that. So that's an ongoing process. But our No. 1 goal is to make sure that these tariffs, these taxes don't go into effect.

CORNISH: The Trump administration has threatened to take similar action and hasn't done it. How seriously are you taking this threat?

BRADLEY: We're taking it very seriously. So, you know, this wasn't just an offhand comment or, you know, even a statement on Twitter or social media. You know, the White House released a detailed schedule with effective dates and levels of tariffs and applying it universally to all imports from Mexico. It's something that I think we have an obligation to take seriously.

CORNISH: President Trump tweeted today that these tariffs would push U.S. automakers to return to the U.S. and presumably offer jobs to Americans that Mexicans do now. Do you see that happening?

BRADLEY: No. And, in fact, you know, one of the great things that President Trump and his administration have done is renegotiating NAFTA, the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement, which is really going to strengthen our economy and the North American economy.

That's all predicated on the idea that we have these supply chains that cross the borders between Mexico, the United States and Canada. So the idea that these tariffs would all of a sudden cause those supply chains to be uprooted goes exactly contrary to the administration and, frankly, the U.S. Chamber's No. 1 legislative priority, which is enactment of USMCA.

CORNISH: We understand that increased border enforcement has already disrupted or slowed goods coming into this country from Mexico. What have you heard about this from some of your members?

BRADLEY: We've been hearing about this for months now, right? We actually have a crisis on the southern border, and it's important that we take steps to deal with that problem. And so we understand that the administration is reallocating resources to be able to deal with this very real problem that is having an impact on commerce. We've been working very well with the administration to try to minimize that.

And, you know, we - if goal number one is to make sure that these tariffs don't go into effect, goal number two is to work with the administration and Congress on a solution to this problem at the southern border.

CORNISH: You know, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley came out against this as well. The senator said, quote, "trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent." Do you agree with the senator?

BRADLEY: I agree 100% with Senator Grassley. And I would even add to that that the imposition of these tariffs has been proposed by the administration would do nothing to solve the very real problem at the southern border. If anything, in weakening the economy, it might make the problem worse.

CORNISH: Are businesses planning to pass these cost on to consumers, right? Should this tariff go into effect, it sounds like you all don't plan on absorbing the cost.

BRADLEY: Well, it's always going to vary between business and product lines. But there's no question that tariffs on all of these products and at the levels that's being suggested would result in increased prices for consumers.

You know, just think about, you know, we're entering the summer season. Avocados for your guacamole or tequila for your margarita - all of those things that we import from Mexico where very thin profit margins - very thin margins. And, you know, you throw 5% or 25% tariffs, taxes on those things, there's no question we're all going to be paying more at the supermarket this summer.

CORNISH: Finally, what are your conversations like with the White House so far?

BRADLEY: You know, we're - our conversations are mainly us encouraging them not to pursue this path, really highlighting for them that this has far-reaching negative ramifications for the American economy and for family and businesses all over the country.

CORNISH: That's Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Thank you for speaking with us.

BRADLEY: Thank you. It was a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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