From Marfa Public Radio

Every weekday, Antonio Godinez Vera turns imported American corn into feed for Mexican livestock. Some of that U.S. corn is also used to make tortillas, a staple of the Mexican diet. Corn is also a symbol of Mexico itself. Corn was born in Mexico 9000 years ago. There’s even an expression here, “Sin maíz no hay pais,” (‘without corn there’s no country.’) Legislation has been proposed in Mexico City to boycott U.S. corn in response to a suite of economic threats against Mexico voiced by President Donald Trump.

“A boycott could certainly hurt us,” Godinez told me in Spanish as the din of his corn mill echoed through a complex of machines and metal kernel grinders. Trucks laden with imported American corn sat in his lot. A boycott would also hurt U.S. corn growers from the Dakotas to the Midwest to Arizona and Texas. Mexico’s deputy economy minister Juan Carlos Baker told the Financial Times that negotiations are underway with Argentina and Brazil to offer them duty-free access to the Mexican market now enjoyed by U.S. growers under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement. As a candidate, Mr. Trump called Nafta the “worst trade deal” ever signed in this country.

Mexican Senator Armando Rios Piter has proposed the boycott. “Corn is from Mexico, from my country. So right now it’s an important position in a nationalistic way but also in terms of trade,” he said at the door of the Senate chamber.

Rios Piter said Brazilian corn is cheaper, though critics say he hasn’t factored in the cost of moving corn from South America rather than the U.S. He countered by saying the legislation under consideration isn’t strictly about cost but about Mexico asserting itself in its relationship with Washington.

“When you have such a bully in Washington, me as a Mexican senator, as a Mexican citizen, I need to say this very loud and clear. Mexico is a serious player. Mexico has been a friend but it can stop collaborating and take those kinds of decisions,” he told me.

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