Backing Down on Tariffs

Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey

Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey, used under Creative Commons license

On Friday, June 6, at 9:23 p.m., the White House announced that it would not impose tariffs on Mexico because an agreement had been reached. The “agreement” said Mexico would continue the crackdowns on migrants that it has already put in place. The United States will also expand its abusive, dangerous, and failed “Remain in Mexico” program across the entire southern border—also not a new move. In short: in the face of overwhelming opposition to his tariff plan, including opposition from Republican senators, Trump backed down. 

Writing in The Atlantic on June 4, Elaina Plott predicted this outcome, describing ow Trump reacts with tantrums on immigration and trade to deflect attention from other events:

“Mueller’s remarks further inflamed Trump’s anger toward the special counsel. So while his tariff announcement was in many ways a surprise, it also had a tinge of inevitability. According to current and former aides, who requested anonymity to speak freely, when Trump feels he has lost control of the narrative, he grasps at two issues: border security and trade. Those aides said he sees these topics as reset buttons, ways to rile both Democratic and Republican lawmakers and draw attention away from whatever dumpster fire is blazing in a given week. “Whenever a negative story comes around, his instinct is to pivot to immigration or trade,” a senior campaign adviser told me. “It’s kind of like his safety blanket. He knows that Fox and conservative media will immediately coalesce and change what the base is talking about.”

“That tactic often works: By the end of a week in which the lies of the White House’s representation of the Mueller report became more apparent than ever, reporters, pundits, and the stock market were all responding instead to Trump’s latest attempt to curb immigration at the southern border….

“Whether these tariffs end up materializing, however, is another question. For Trump, the security-blanket element of these spontaneous policy proposals is more of a short-term comfort—a way to ease himself through the crisis of the moment before moving on to the next one. Sometimes he does indeed follow through on his pronouncements. But often, as I wrote recently, he doesn’t.”

Trump backing down on tariffs is a good thing for both Mexico and the United States. Increasing harshness toward immigrants in Mexico and in the United States is not, but that’s the direction both countries are heading. 


About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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