Why U.S. Tax Reform Threatens Mexico’s Financial Future

5/15/2017 Americas Quarterly

pena nieto wefWhile tweets and speeches may continue to cause consternation in Mexico and Canada, the existential threat to NAFTA seems to have passed.

President Donald Trump is now talking about giving “renegotiation a good, strong shot” rather than rescinding the free trade agreement entirely. On the docket will be intellectual property, labor rights, e-commerce, rules of origin and the environment – issues Canada and Mexico are happy to upgrade, the outlines already defined within the ill-fated Trans-Pacific Partnership. More contentious issues could include “Buy American” clauses, border customs processes, sanitary measures, and import licenses, as well as specific grievances around the Canadian dairy and soft lumber industries, and regarding Mexican sugar imports. The process will undoubtedly be drawn out; the negotiations won’t begin in earnest until three months after the White House informs a still-waiting Congress.

But for Mexico, there is another huge challenge to its economic future: U.S. tax reform.

The most obvious and widely noticed threat is a border adjustment tax (BAT). As laid out in Speaker Paul Ryan’s tax reform “blueprint,” it would charge a 20 percent levy on all goods and services brought into the United States, and exempt U.S.-made exports from being taxed at all.

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