Mexico is ready to hit the US where it hurts: corn.
Mexico is one of the largest buyers of American corn in the world today. And Mexican Senator Armando Rios Piter, who heads a congressional foreign relations committee, says he will introduce a bill this week where Mexico would buy corn from Brazil and Argentina instead of the United States.
It is one of the first signs of possible concrete action from Mexico in response to President Trump’s threats against the country.
“I’m going to send an invoice for the corn that we’re buying in the Midwest and … I’m going to change to Brazil or Argentina,” Rios Piter, 43, told CNN’s Leyla Santiago on Sunday at an anti-Trump protest in the City of Mexico .
He added: “It’s a good way to tell them that this hostile relationship has consequences, hopefully it will change.”
American corn enters a large part of the country’s food. From fancy restaurants to street taco stands, corn-based favorites like tacos can be found everywhere in Mexico City.
Related: Mexican Farmer’s Daughter: NAFTA Destroyed Us
America is also the largest producer and exporter of corn in the world. US corn shipments to Mexico have catapulted since NAFTA, a free trade agreement signed between Mexico, America and Canada.
U.S. farmers sent $2.4 billion worth of corn to Mexico in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. In 1995, the year after NAFTA became law, corn exports to Mexico were just $391 million.
Experts say this bill would be very costly for American farmers.
“If we actually see a trade war where Mexico starts buying from Brazil … we’re going to see that affect the corn market and affect the rest of the agricultural economy,” says Darin Newsom, senior analyst at DTN. an agricultural management company.
Rios Piter’s bill is another sign of Mexico’s willingness to respond to Trump’s threats. Trump wants to make Mexico pay for a border wall and has threatened tariffs on Mexican imports ranging from 20% to 35%.
Trump also wants to renegotiate NAFTA. He blames it on a flood of manufacturing jobs in Mexico. A nonpartisan congressional investigative report found that to be untrue.
Related: Mexico doubles down on Trump’s ‘contingency plan’
Still, Trump says he wants a better trade deal for the American worker, though he hasn’t said what a better deal looks like.
All sides signaled two weeks ago that negotiations would begin in May after a 90-day consultation period.
But Trump says if the negotiations don’t yield the deal he wants, he’s threatening to pull out of NAFTA.
Such tough talk is not well received by Mexican leaders like Rios Piter. He is not alone. Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said in January that Mexico would respond “immediately” to any tariffs from Trump.
“It is very clear that we must be prepared to be able to immediately neutralize the impact of a measure of this nature,” said Guajardo. 13 on a Mexican news program.
— Shasta Darlington contributed reporting to this story
CNNMoney (Mexico City) First published on February 13, 2017: 12:06 pm ET