Trump threatens to close southern border, ‘go back to pre-NAFTA’ without wall funding

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to close the country’s border with Mexico and hinted at cancelling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Friday morning, in a series of tweets demanding funding for his border wall.

The president blasted the “Obstructionist” Democrats early Friday, less than a week before the rival party takes a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. The shift in Congress will make it much more difficult for Trump to secure the US$5 billion he’s demanding to build the border wall which he originally promised would be paid for by Mexico.

“We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with,” Trump tweeted.

The current Republican-majority Congress failed to pass a spending bill that included $5.7 billion for Trump’s wall last week, triggering a partial government shutdown. The outgoing Republican-majority House passed the bill, but it failed in the Republican-held Senate.

Trump has repeatedly claimed the border wall is necessary to stop illegal immigration. However, he appeared to put the USMCA/CUSMA, his newly-negotiated NAFTA replacement deal, on the line Friday with his threats to close the border, saying it would be a “profit making operation” to reduce the trade deficit with Mexico.

“The United States looses (sic) soooo much money on Trade with Mexico under NAFTA, over 75 Billion Dollars a year (not including Drug Money which would be many times that amount),” he tweeted.

The U.S. goods deficit with Mexico was $71 billion in 2017 and $67 billion through the first 10 months of this year, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The president suggested closing the border would allow the U.S. to “go back to pre-NAFTA, before so many of our companies and jobs were so foolishly sent to Mexico.” He also claimed it would allow the U.S. to bring back more jobs in the auto industry.

Trump has already put his stamp on North American trade relations by forcing Canada and Mexico to renegotiate NAFTA. Leaders from all three countries signed the replacement deal on Nov. 30, after more than a year of tough negotiations.

The tentative deal sets new rules for the auto industry aimed at keeping production in North America. It also requires 40 per cent of car parts to be made by workers earning $16 an hour – a higher wage than most Mexican auto sector employees earn.

The new deal, also known as NAFTA 2.0, must be passed by the new U.S. Congress before it can come into effect.

Trump continued his Twitter rant on Friday with another threat to cut off foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – the three countries from which many migrants have fled to reach the U.S.

“Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are doing nothing for the United States but taking our money,” he said.

The U.S. government shutdown entered its seventh day on Friday, with Trump blaming the Democrats for the impasse.

The president previously said he would proudly take credit for the shutdown in the name of border security.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer during a combative photo-op at the White House on Dec. 11. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”

—With files from The Associated Press

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