NBC: The US-Mexico wall is not under construction
- President Donald Trump, according to NBC News, has started referring to the contentious U.S.-Mexico border wall as "under construction," encouraging crowds at campaign rallies to chant "continue building that wall" instead of "build that wall." However, according to an investigation by the news outlet, the president is a little too ambitious in his claims.
- The work at the border has reportedly included mostly fence replacement and none of the concrete barrier the president promised during his 2016 pre-election campaign. In addition, a $1.6 billion barrier allowance from Congress, part of the March 2018 spending bill, can only be used to repair or replace existing border fencing and not as a "down payment" on the president's multi-billion wall project. Prototypes for a wall on the scale of what President Trump has described have been built near San Diego, but there is uncertainty around how those will be incorporated into the existing barriers, although lawmakers have been briefed on development and testing.
- The president also maintains that Mexico will eventually pay for the cost of building a new border wall, but Mexican officials, including President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have consistently denied those claims. President Trump has not offered any details on how he intends to exact payment from Mexico.
Any potential negotiations with Mexico about the wall or any other issues will not be made easier by the president's decision to impose tariffs on steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) imported into the U.S. When the president first announced the tariffs in March, he granted Mexico, Canada and the European Union exemptions, which he revoked effective June 1. Since then, all three have moved forward with retaliatory tariffs on everything from U.S. metal products to yogurt.
Mexico announced early last month that it would counter U.S. tariffs with $3 billion worth of its own duties on items like cheese, whiskey, pork, apples and potatoes. This week, the country issued another round of tariffs on U.S. agricultural products.
On July 1, $12.6 billion of Canadian tariffs on a wide variety of U.S. products went into effect, including those for steel and aluminum. Canada also announced that it would provide up to $2 billion of financial support for steel- and aluminum-industry companies and their employees to "defend and protect" their interests.
The construction industry's reaction to the tariffs, with the exception of domestic steel producers, has been largely negative.
In June, the Associated General Contractors of America said that tariffs would likely drive prices for construction materials even higher. As of May 2018, construction materials prices increased almost 9% year over year, according to an AGC analysis of the U.S. Department of Labor's producer price indexes and employment cost indexes. The association said this is the biggest annual increase in seven years and doesn't account for the new tariffs. Before the president imposed the new tariffs, prices for aluminum mill shapes increased more than 17% from May 2017 to May 2018, and steel mill product prices increased more than 10% during the same period.
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