BERKELEY, Calif. (KTVU/AP) - More Mexicans joined the rallying call on Friday, saying Mexico should push back against President Donald Trump's immigration policies and his insistence that Mexico pay for a border wall.
President Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto spoke on the phone for about one hour Friday, but tension has been rising after they canceled their scheduled meeting in Washington this week over the border wall payment dispute. President Trump's administration had said they might impose a 20% tariff on Mexico to pay for the wall construction. Some Mexicans are calling for retaliation and a display of how much power Mexico has over the U.S. economy, law enforcement, and politics.
"The United States is a more powerful country again by many a whole lot of measures. But that fact can sometimes convince us that Mexico doesn't have any options, which is a big mistake for us to make," said UC Berkeley Associate Professor of History Brian DeLay.
DeLay says Mexico could respond to U.S. tariffs with its own tariffs on U.S. goods.
"Mexico is our third largest trade partner overall. And it's the second largest market for exports in the world," DeLay said, "Mexico buys more than half of the natural gas that we export to the world right now. More than half."
Some Mexicans are calling for an outright boycott of American products.
Former President Felipe Calderon said Thursday that "we have to design a policy of retaliation" for Trump's proposed plans.
In Berkeley, the Star Grocery might be far from the Mexican border, but look on the shelves and you'll see signs of Mexico, from tequila and beer to fresh produce, sweets, and candies.
"Peppers and cucumbers, these are all from Mexico, limes," said Joshua Owings, a Star Grocery shift leader, "I suppose our wholesale prices would end up increasing and then retail prices would follow suit and it'd perhaps be harder to sell things."
If President Trump implements the proposed 20% tariffs on Mexican goods to pay for a border wall, it could also impact prices of automobiles and other goods made in the Mexico.
Social media hashtags such as #adiosstarbucks, #adioswalmart, or #adiosmcdonalds were circulating.
Mexico's richest businessman Carlos Slim called for national unity Friday, saying Mexicans should buy Mexican products, and respond without surrendering.
Another option, Mexico could also stop assisting the U.S. with border control.
"Mexico has at the behest of the United States erected all kinds of barriers on the southern border with Guatemala and with Central America in an effort to try and slow down the flow of people leaving Central America with the destination of the United States," DeLay said, "That's all voluntary."
Mexico also could stop inspecting vehicles for drug shipments and expel U.S law enforcement agents.
Professor DeLay says some Mexicans have suggested that if the Trump administration begins mass deportations, Mexico could refuse to receive them unless the U.S. provides proof of their Mexican citizenship.
"He is in effect, creating a political environment in Mexico that is going to compel politicians in whatever party to become more assertive of Mexican interests and less cooperative with the Trump administration," DeLay said.
Trump appeared to try to defuse the spat between the two countries Friday, saying, "Great respect for Mexico, I love the Mexican people."
"We have really, I think, a very good relationship, the president and I, and we had a talk that lasted for about an hour this morning, and we are going to be working on a fair relationship," Trump said.
The office of the Mexican president confirmed the call, calling it "constructive and productive," but did not specifically mention the wall or other policies proposed by Trump it doesn't agree with.
Pena Nieto's government instead stressed "the need for both countries to continue working together to stop the trafficking of drugs and the flow of illegal weapons."
"Both presidents recognized their clear and very public differences on this very sensitive issue, and agreed to solve those differences as part of an integrated discussion of all aspects of the bilateral relationship," Pena Nieto's office said. "The two presidents also agreed, for the moment, to no longer speak publicly about this controversial topic."