US will impose car tariffs if Mexico doesn't control border: Trump

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Cars line up at the San Ysidro crossing port to cross from Tijuana in Mexico to San Diego in the US on April 4, 2019. (AFP photo)

US President Donald Trump has threatened to impose car tariffs on Mexico if the country does not stop undocumented migrants and drug summers from crossing into the United States.

"If Mexico doesn't give the help, that's OK, we're going to tariff their cars," Trump said at the White House on Thursday, apparently backtracking on his threat to close the US-Mexican border.

"I will do it. I don't play games,” he added.

Trump said he would give Mexico one year to handle the situation in a manner acceptable to Washington. He also demanded Mexico City do more in clamping down on the cross-border drug trade.

"If Mexico doesn't do what they can do very easily, apprehend these people coming in..., we're going to tax the cars and if that doesn't work we're going to close the borders," he said.

"We're also going to do something having to do with tariffs on drugs because... hundreds of thousands of lives (are) ruined a year in our country," he said. "If the drugs don't stop we're going to put tariffs.”

"So we will put tariffs if they don't apprehend (migrants) and ultimately -- we're going to give a period of time, but if in a year from now if drugs continue to pour in, we're going to put tariffs on them," he said.

Hours later, Trump further distanced himself from his previous threat to shut down the border with Mexico. 

“Before we close the border, we‘ll put the tariffs on the cars,“ he said while speaking to reporters in the Oval Office. “I don‘t think we‘ll ever have to close the border."

Trump's reversal came after fellow Republicans and business groups warned him of dire economic consequences if Trump shut down the Mexico border.

Last week, Trump said he was prepared to close the border if Mexico did not stop the flow of migrants into the United States.

In a series of tweets last week, the US president accused Mexico of making "a fortune" from America that is greater than its costs of protecting the border. 

US lawmakers slammed the move for having catastrophic economic consequences. Mexico City warned that it is ready for any scenario.

Trump blamed Democrats for the problems, and said they were responsible for giving Washington weak immigration laws.

Trump is also trying to convince the Congress to sign off on a revised trade agreement with Mexico and Canada that his administration negotiated last year.

The US Census Bureau says a border shutdown would disrupt tourism and commerce between the two countries, which totaled 612 billion dollars last year.

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