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As if sanctions against China weren’t enough, President Donald Trump has recently amped up his foreign policy rhetoric. Now, if Mexico doesn’t agree to implement stricter border control, the U.S. will start imposing tariffs on Mexican goods.

Like the U.S.-China trade war, Trump has good reason to escalate. But he also risks serious economic damage if he doesn’t play his game plan precisely.

For decades, Mexico has stood silently as waves of largely illegal migrants streamed into the U.S. From their perspective, the Mexican government benefits from playing dumb. First, most migrants send money back home to their countries of origin, which benefit most Central American economies. Second, mass migration from this area helps shift U.S. demographics.

That dynamic plays into the leftist Democrats vision of America and solidifies their power base. In turn, Mexico receives higher potential wealth through favorable trade deals and the influx of personal (hard) currency transfers.

It’s no wonder, then, why President Trump wishes to impose border control on both sides of the fence. Preventing the human stream of migration is not just an immediate concern; if left unchecked, mass immigration could undermine national security and prosperity.

Indeed, Trump holds the higher moral ground, much in the same way he does with China. After all, he cannot let the Chinese just steal intellectual property and technology without consequences. At the same time, consequences exist for not approaching this delicate matter diplomatically.

 

Border Control to Make Trump a Genius or Imbecile

Currently, the geopolitical winds favor the Trump administration. Apparently, the Mexican government isn’t willing to play hardball with the U.S. Under certain conditions, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador implied, he can make border control work.

I’m not necessarily surprised how this is turning out. Although some parallels exist between China and Mexico’s relationship with the U.S., they’re hardly the same. The former represents the second-biggest economy in the world, while Mexico is ranked well outside the top ten.

Still, don’t discount the idea that Trump and Obrador don’t see eye-to-eye during their Washington meeting this week. In terms of border control, Trump probably wants a wholesale reduction in migration. That’s probably not going to happen, no matter how acquiescent Obrador appears.

Therefore, we could have another protracted trade dispute, this time with a key partner. It’s not China, but Mexico is right next door. In many ways, our interests are mutually beneficial.

But Trump has to play his cards right. Any misstep could quickly derail him, especially with the general election just over a year away.