“Who’s going to pay for the wall?” asks Donald Trump, hand to ear. “Mexico!” yells the crowd.
Trump’s call and response is as iconic as it is misleading. Because the real answer is Texas.
No state has more to lose from soured relations with Mexico than the Lone Star State. By threatening to make Mexico pay for a border wall, to impose double-digit tariffs on Mexican imports and to block remittances, and by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” Trump is directly threatening the health of the Texas economy. This should concern all Americans, not just Texans.
Texas is the top exporting state in the country, and its biggest trading partner is Mexico. Texas exported $251 billion in 2015, or a sixth of total U.S. exports, according to the Census Bureau. California and New York are the next largest exporting states, although their combined exports in 2015 were still less than Texas ($245 billion).
Texas almost single-handedly has driven export growth during the economic recovery. From 2009 to 2015, Texas exports increased by 54 percent. National export growth, sans Texas, was just 42 percent.
And far from popular wisdom, Texas exports are not just oil. Coal and petroleum products make up just 19 percent of the state’s exports, followed by computers and electronics (17 percent), and chemicals (16 percent). This makes Texas exports more diversified than the U.S., according to the Dallas Federal Reserve.
If politicians want to reduce America’s $41 billion trade deficit, a major priority now of both Republicans and Democrats, maintaining and growing Texas exports must play a large role.
Which is why it makes no sense that Trump is threatening to drive a stake through the heart of Texas’ trade, or that he at least considers it collateral damage to make good on his populist campaign promises.