Sonora governor speaks out against Trump’s tariff threat

Gov. Claudia Pavlovich, Sonora, Mexico, and Gov. Doug Ducey, talk after a press conference Nov. 29 to announce Lucid Motors has agreed to open a plant in Casa Grande.
Gov. Claudia Pavlovich, Sonora, Mexico, and Gov. Doug Ducey, talk after a press conference Nov. 29, 2016, to announce Lucid Motors has agreed to open a plant in Casa Grande.

Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich is parting ways with her Arizona counterpart over the controversial tariffs on imports from Mexico that President Donald Trump is threatening to impose this coming week.

In a Twitter post, the Sonora governor made it clear she is on the side of her president, Andres Lopez Obrador, who said in his own public posting to Trump that “you can’t solve social problems with taxes or coercive measures.” And the Sonora governor said she fears the economic damage that would result.

“There are a lot of national interests, investment, employment that are in play, the interests of both countries,” Pavlovich said.

“Mexico is the principal business partner of the United States,” she continued, as if addressing U.S. officials. “You know this very well.”

And Pavlovich said there is a clear responsibility of elected officials on both sides of the border to pursue “dialog and the agreement that benefit our citizens.”

This is more than an academic issue for Pavlovich.

In an interview in 2016 with Capitol Media Services, a year after she took office, she said she is trying to build a “mega-region” with Arizona designed to attract companies interested in doing business on both sides of the border. Pavlovich said that means more trade, more tourism and more emphasis on convincing businesses that the border is not a barrier but instead simply separates two halves of a whole.

That would appear to conflict with Trump’s “America First” agenda.

More specifically, Pavlovich came to Phoenix later in 2016 to help Ducey announce that Lucid Motors intends to build an electric car manufacturing plant in Casa Grande.

In speeches that day, the two governors stressed that this would be a cross-border operation, with many of the parts and supplies made in Sonora and shipped to the United States. A tariff would raise costs and threaten the viability of such a plan.

A Lucid spokeswoman said late Wednesday her company has no comment at this time about the tariffs and how they might affect the planned operations.

At issue is Trump’s threat to impose a 5 percent tariff on all Mexican imports beginning Monday unless that country takes certain actions − he did not specify what − to stem the flow of refugees from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala who are fleeing their home countries and traveling through Mexico to show up at the U.S. border to seek asylum.

Trump has vowed to ratchet up those tariffs to as much as 25 percent by October if his administration is not satisfied with Mexican response.

Ducey, for his part, is siding with the president, saying earlier this week that he values “public safety” over commerce.

On Wednesday, he provided no direct response to Pavlovich’s Twitter post. Instead, press aide Patrick Ptak said his boss “values Arizona’s trade relationship with Mexico and the partnership he’s forged with Gov. Pavlovich.”

Ptak also said that Ducey will continue to prioritize trade to bring opportunity Arizonans “while protecting public safety as we always have.”

But in backing Trump, the Arizona governor is finding himself increasingly isolated from other border governors, including on this side of the line.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, governor of New Mexico, warned that the proposed tariffs have the “potential to be economically catastrophic” for her state. Grisham, a Democrat, said even a 5 percent tariff could threaten tens of thousands of jobs.

Republican Greg Abbott of Texas also has lined up against the president.

“I’ve previously stated my opposition to tariffs due to the harm it would inflict on the Texas economy,” Abbott said in a statement released last week. “I remain opposed today.”

Until now Ducey has tried to separate domestic policy as espoused by Trump from his relationship with Pavlovich.

Last year Ducey signed a pact that will enable New Mexico to move its excess natural gas through Arizona to Sonora for eventual sale to Asia. That came amid escalating rhetoric from the Trump administration decrying what the president said have been unfair trade deals with Mexico.

Ducey said at the time to ignore all that.]

“I think there’s a difference between rhetoric and actions,” the Arizona governor said.

That, however, was before the rhetoric about border security became action in the form of the threatened tariffs.

The issue of Trump came up even earlier in conversations between Ducey and Pavlovich, before the 2016 presidential election.

As a candidate, Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and promised to build a wall along the border “and make Mexico pay for it.”

Pavlovich told Capitol Media Services at the time she was not blind or deaf to those statements by candidate Trump, insisting that “Gov. Ducey and myself will overcome all the obstacles that we see in front of us.”

Ducey, in his own comments to Capitol Media Services, said there were “political realities” that would have to be dealt with, including the possibility that Trump would be elected. The trick Ducey said, was not letting those comments and the political race get in the way.

“If we focus on what the goal is, what are the objectives in terms of growing our economy, having safer communities, improving tourism and trade, we can work around those,” he said.