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Laredo, Now No. 1 U.S. Trade Hub, Braces For Trump’s Mexico Tariffs

Veronica G. Cardenas / Texas Public Radio
Trucks leave Super Transport International's warehouse on Friday, May 3.1 in Laredo, Texas..

Residents of Laredo, Texas are reacting to President Trump’s threats to implement a new 5% tariff on all goods coming from Mexico. The president said the tariff will increase if Mexico doesn’t stop the flow of illegal immigration into the U.S.

Kent Richards is the assistant director of the bridge system in Laredo, a border city of about 260,000 people.

He stood by Laredo’s World Trade Bridge on Friday as large semi trailers carrying goods zoomed by into Mexico. The bridge saw about $20 billion worth of goods flow through during the month of March. That number helped catapult the city of Laredo past Los Angeles to become the No. 1 port in the entire country for trade. A title they want to hold on to.

“We would like to be the number one port for the complete year and let the world and the United States know, ‘Hey we’re Laredo. We’re the No. 1 for everything,’” he said.

That No. 1 spot might soon come to an end because of Trump’s upcoming tariffs.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz says about 18,000 trucks go through their bridges every day: 9,000 crossing into the U.S. and another 9,000 flow back into Mexico.

He said the tariffs will not only impact his community, but will eventually trickle down to other border communities and the rest of the country.

“It’s a textbook example of how to do self harm. When we put a tariff on Mexican goods or Chinese goods or anybody else, we pay the tariff. The consumer pays it. Not the other country,” said David MacPherson, the chair of Trinity University’s Department of Economics. “Everything that we consume that’s manufactured in Mexico is going to get more expensive and jobs are going to be lost.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection hosted a town hall Friday focused on trade.

A town hall focused on trade was held Friday, May 31, in Laredo. From left to right: Office of Trade Relations Executive Director Bradley Hayes, Deputy Patrol Agent Joel Martínez, Acting Deputy Chief Patrol Agent John Morris, Office of Trade Executive Assistant Commissioner Brenda Smith and Office of Field Operation Executive Assistant commissioner Todd Owen.

Eduardo Lozano is a local broker and attended the town hall. He said he’s begun receiving calls from importers saying they plan on sending double the shipments of products than they normally would to avoid the June 10 deadline of tariffs.

Lozano asked if CBP is prepared to see an influx of shipments.

Executive Assistant Commissioner with the Office of Trade at CBP Brenda Smith answered with, “not today, but tomorrow.”

Smith acknowledged “there will be an impact”.

José B. Gonzalez, an independent customs broker in Laredo, said the ports of entry are already too congested due to a lack of border patrol agents.

“It’s going to create a backlog for our infrastructure during this timeframe,” Gonzalez said. “We’re probably going to take a hit, a huge hit on this, because they’re going to import in the next 10 days, and then there’s going to be a slow down after that.”

Reynaldo Leaños Jr. can be reached at and on Twitter at @ReynaldoLeanos

Texas Public Radio fellow Sierra Juarez contibuted to this story.

Copyright 2019 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Reynaldo Leanos Jr. covers immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border for Texas Public Radio.