Mexico ready to retaliate by hurting American corn farmers

Anti-Trump protests take place across Mexico

Mexico is ready to hit the US where it hurts: Corn.

Mexico is one of the largest buyers of US corn in the world today. Mexican senator Armando Rios Piter, who heads a congressional committee on foreign relations, said he would introduce a bill this week that would see Mexico buy corn from Brazil and Argentina instead of the United States.

It was one of the first signs that Mexico might take concrete action in response to President Trump’s threats against the country.

“I’m going to send a bill for the corn we’re buying in the Midwest and … change it to Brazil or Argentina,” Rios Piter, 43, told CNN’s Leyla Santiago on Sunday at an anti-Trump rally. in Mexico City.

He added: It was a “good way to tell them that this hostile relationship has consequences, hopefully that will change.”

American corn goes into a lot of the country’s food. In Mexico City, from fine dining restaurants to street tacos, you can find corn favorites like tacos everywhere.

Related: Mexican Farmer’s Daughter: NAFTA Destroyed Us

The United States is also the world’s largest corn producer and exporter. U.S. corn shipments to Mexico have increased since NAFTA, a free trade agreement signed between Mexico, the United States and Canada.

American farmers sent $2.4 billion in corn to Mexico in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. In 1995, a year after NAFTA became law, corn exports to Mexico totaled only $391 million.

Experts say such a bill would be very expensive for American farmers.

“If we really see a trade war where Mexico starts buying from Brazil… we’ll see it affect the corn market,” said Darin Newsom, senior analyst at DTN. and affect the rest of the agricultural economy,” an agricultural management company.

The Rios Piter bill is another sign that Mexico is ready to respond to Trump’s threats. Trump wants to make Mexico pay for a border wall, and he threatens to levy tariffs on Mexican imports from 20% to 35%.

Trump also wants to renegotiate NAFTA. That’s why Mexico is flooded with manufacturing jobs, he says. A nonpartisan congressional research report suggests that’s not the case.

Related: Mexico doubles down on Trump’s ‘backup plan’

Still, Trump says he wants a better trade deal for American workers – though he hasn’t said what a better deal looks like.

Two weeks ago, all sides signaled that negotiations would begin in May after a 90-day consultation period.

But Trump said if the talks don’t reach the deal he wants, he will threaten to pull out of NAFTA.

Such tough talk is not well received by Mexican leaders like Rios Piter. He is not alone. Mexico’s Economy Minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, said in January Mexico would respond “immediately” to any tariffs from Trump.

“Clearly we have to be prepared to be able to immediately neutralize the impact of a measure of that nature,” Guajardo said January 13 on a Mexican news program.

–Shasta Darlington contributed reporting to this story

CNNMoney (Mexico City) Originally published February 13, 2017: 12:06 PM ET Mexico ready to retaliate by hurting American corn farmers

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