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Mexico Targets Pelosi in Trade War?

2:15 PM, Mar 18, 2009 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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The Mexican government announced several days ago that it would impose higher tariffs on 90 different products imported from the United States. Today the list was released. The National Association of Manufacturers provides an unofficial translation here.

Mexico imports a range of agricultural and industrial products from the United States. In the case of agricultural products, those imports include corn, rice, wheat, beef, and a whole range of other items. Looking at this list, it seems that one common characteristic among the targeted ag products is that they are generally produced in California. The new tariffs are imposed on wines, onions, lettuce, almonds, strawberries, cherries, peas, grapes and other products grown in California.

According to a Mexican government official following the debate, California wines are likely to be displaced in Mexico by Chilean and European wines. (Mexico has signed Free Trade Agreements with those countries, and they have not violated the agreements in the way the Obama administration has.) It's my understanding that almost every product on this list faced a tariff of between zero and ten percent on sales in Mexico before this action; now those rates will rise to 15 or 20 percent in most cases. Grapes shipped to Mexico will face a tariff rate of 45 percent.

The most powerful Californian in Congress is, of course, Speaker Pelosi. If the Mexican government wanted to make a U.S. politician bear the political cost of violating NAFTA, they could hardly do better than to target Pelosi. This list guarantees that she will hear about this every time she returns to her state -- especially when she travels to wine country.

California will not be the only entity hit by these increased tariffs. The list includes many industrial products as well. It's interesting to note that it includes toilet paper, antiperspirant, plasticware, shaving cream, dental products and shampoo.
There's an Ohio company
that makes many of those products, and Ohio happens to be represented in the Senate by one of America's most ardently protectionist Senators -- Sherrod Brown.

It could just be coincidence that Mexico is imposing penalties that seem to disproportionately impact the constituents of leading protectionists in Congress. If it is though, it's an interesting coincidence.