In the News

Source: Houston Chronicle; By Ileana Najarro; January 26, 2017

The CNN news alert buzzed Janet Quezada's cellphone during lunch.

She and her husband were discussing her dress shop, featuring quinceañera, bridal and formal dresses all imported from Mexico, set to open on Saturday. Quezada looked at her phone. President Donald Trump, the alert said, had just proposed a 20 percent tax on all imports from Mexico to pay for the border wall he's promised to build.

She couldn't finish her meal. She worried about the impact such a move could have on her new small business, Karla Boutique.

"I can't believe it's come to this," she said later.

Trump's apparent endorsement of the import tax proposed by congressional Republicans came just hours after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a planned meeting with Trump next week.

Although the White House later clarified its comments to assert the proposal could be part of a larger plan to pay for the wall, the suggestion of a tariff at all generated hot reaction from Houstonians with strong business ties to Mexico, the nation's third-largest trading partner.

An exasperated Laura Murillo, president of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, warned that the relationship between the neighboring countries "is one that we must not play Russian roulette with."

Ana Beaven, owner of Cuchara restaurant in Montrose, said such a tariff on the ingredients she imports from Mexico would drive up her costs and she would be reluctant to pass them on to her customers.

Although no action in Washington is imminent, Beaven said she was already beginning to assess which U.S.-grown products she might use in lieu of imports.

If unable to find suitable replacements, she said, she would make cuts "here and there." If a dish ends up too pricey due to the tax, she added, she would take it off the menu rather than serve it with cheaper ingredients of lesser quality.

"We would never sacrifice the integrity of our ingredients," Beaven said.

At Port Houston, a significant local entry point for goods from Mexico, a spokeswoman said it was too early to assess the impact of a possible tariff.

"We are following this closely," director of media relations Lisa Ashley said.

As she continues to prepare for Karla Boutique's opening weekend, Quezada is keeping an eye on the news as well. Should the tax proposal be implemented, she said, she would have to raise the prices on the dresses made in her uncle's factory in Mexico.

"Will we be seeing quinceañera dresses made in China?" she asked, with a laugh.

She clings to the belief that the proposal is but a passing thought. "Not everything the president says he wants to do gets done," she said. "I hope."



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