What does the U.S. import from Mexico? A whole lot

Last Updated Jan 27, 2017 8:58 AM EST

The Trump administration’s proposal to impose a 20 percent tariff on goods from Mexico, as well as other countries, would hit Americans hard. That’s because Mexico is the third-largest exporter of goods to the U.S., behind Canada and China.

In 2015, the U.S. imported $295 billion worth of products from Mexico, according to government trade data. The top category was cars and car parts, most of them owned by American automakers and intended for the U.S. market. The U.S. also relies heavily on Mexico for machinery, oil and agricultural products.

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CBS MoneyWatch/Irina Ivanova

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday that revenue raised from a tariff on Mexico would be used to pay for the construction of a proposed wall along the U.S. southern border. 

“Mexico has taken advantage of the U.S. for long enough,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Friday. “Massive trade deficits & little help on the very weak border must change, NOW!”

Among other imports from Mexico, the U.S. got $11.3 billion worth of oil in 2015 (the latest year for which data was available), according to UN Comtrade, which keeps data on trade. Mexico also shipped $9.3 billion worth of prefabricated buildings, hailed as the next big innovation in construction, as their use speeds up projects and keeps their cost low.

There was $2.1 billion worth of rubber and rubber articles, and $2.4 billion worth of apparel. The category of “beverages, spirits and vinegar” racked up $3.5 billion of exports to the U.S. Beer made up $1.9 billion of that figure and spirits another $1 billion of spirits. That includes Mexican beers Corona, Dos Equis and Modelo, and the many tequilas for which the country is renowned.

Americans also imported $5.5 billion of vegetables and $3.9 billion of fruit and nuts from our southern partner. Among them were $1.8 billion of tomatoes and $1.3 billion avocados. 

Although the Trump administration has yet to release details on the plan to tax imports from countries with which the U.S. is running a trade deficit, some experts immediately panned the idea.

“For all intents and purposes, this is a tax on U.S. consumers to pay for the wall,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist with High Frequency Economics, in a report. “What possible good can come from alienating the government of the United States’ fourth most important trading partner? We stand resolute in our analysis: Trade wars are bad. Tariffs are bad. Nobody wins when trade barriers go up.”