Picture an economic shockwave: Thousands of workers laid off and supermarket shelves made barren. Auto plants darkened overnight.
Precious supplies of avocados, so dear to American hearts, wiped out, while other fresh fruits and vegetables also rot in trucks, with supplies exhausted in as little as 48 hours.
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Fuming over migration, President Donald Trump has reiterated his threat to close the US-Mexico border, among the busiest in the world, across which $1.7 billion in goods and hundreds of thousands of people travel in both directions every day.
This has drawn a collective gasp from economists, Congress and industry, who fear a catastrophe that could tip the world's largest economy into recession as ties with Mexico, its third-largest trading partner, grind to a halt.
“It comes close to being unthinkable,” Daniel Griswold, director of the trade and immigration project at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, told AFP. He spoke of waves of joblessness, lost business and deepened suffering among farmers who have already been hurt during Trump's multi-front trade wars with China, Europe, Canada and Mexico.
Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said US officials were working to minimise the economic impact from any closure of the border, including keeping truck lanes open.
US officials say the port of San Ysidro, which lies between San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico, is the busiest land port in the Western Hemisphere, processing 70,000 northbound vehicles and 20,000 northbound pedestrians every day.
In 2018, the largest US imports were Mexican-made autos and auto parts, which together totaled $114 billion, according to Commerce Department figures, while just in petroleum and coal products, industrial chemicals and machinery, the United States sent back more than $70 billion.
For each US auto assembly worker, there are seven to nine other jobs in industries directly dependent on auto production and marketing: shipping, rail, accounting, engineering, advertising, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Center for Automotive Research.
Meanwhile, Mexico is also the largest source of US agricultural imports, sending more than 6 billion pounds (2.7 million metric tons) of produce northward annually—feeding much of America in the colder months when fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season.
Perishable tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, bell peppers, mangoes and avocados do not languish in warehouses, according to Allison Moore, vice president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas in Nogales, Arizona.
“We're not in the storage business,” Moore told AFP. “You're gonna see us run out of product in two days, max.”
Research produced with the University of Arizona, a US state that sits atop a fertile corridor of farmland south of the Mexican border, shows that nationwide about 30,000 US jobs are tied just to importing Mexican tomatoes, she said.
“When there's no work at local warehouses, there
are gonna be layoffs,” said Moore.
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