The United States is currently the largest producer and exporter of corn, but that title may take a hit if Guerrero Sen. Armando Rios Piter gets his way. CNN reports that the Mexican lawmaker will introduce a bill that would require all of that country's corn imports to come from Brazil or Argentina rather than the U.S.
The move is political: Piter explained to CNN that it's a "good way to tell them that [President Donald Trump's] hostile relationship has consequences, hope that it changes."
Trump has been vocal about his views on Mexico, insisting that the neighboring country will pay for a wall along the U.S.'s southern border and threatening to impose a hefty import tax on Mexican goods if the country doesn't comply. Trump has also lambasted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he blames for U.S. jobs going to Mexico.
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service released a report in 2015 that contradicts Trump's claims about the trade deal. "In reality, NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters," the authors of the report wrote. "The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest."
Trump has criticized NAFTA as being one-sided, but the numbers suggest otherwise. A study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2012 found that "trade with Canada and Mexico supports nearly 14 million U.S. jobs, and nearly 5 million of these net jobs are supported by the increase in trade generated by NAFTA."
U.S. farmers also benefitted from NAFTA, with CNN reporting that corn exports to Mexico rose from $391 million in 1995 to $2.4 billion in 2015.
"Prior to NAFTA, Mexico's tariffs were highest for agricultural products," the Chamber of Commerce report explains. "NAFTA allowed American farmers and ranchers to get past those barriers. As a result, U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico have quintupled since NAFTA entered into force, and the United States today supplies three-quarters of Mexico's agri-food imports."
Piter's corn bill threatens this boon to U.S. farmers.
Economic protectionism comes with a price tag, and it will be the United States who ends up footing the bill. While Trump may argue that his policies will bolster the U.S. economy and its workers, he's far more likely to start a trade war, which in turn will hurt those he claims to want to help the most.
Update 2/14/17: Mexico is, of course, not in Central America.