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Mexico Might Stop Buying America's Popcorn if Trump Renegotiates NAFTA

The head of Mexico's largest movie theater chain has threatened to get his kernels elsewhere if tariffs increase.
Photo via Dustin O'Donnell

Donald Trump has vowed to rethink the US's engagement in the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he has called "the worst trade deal ever." But if the US were to start imposing tariffs on goods that are imported or exported to Mexico and Canada, we might lose Mexico's business when it comes to popcorn purchases.  Cinepolis de Mexico CEO Alejandro Ramirez, who runs the country's largest (and world's fourth largest) movie theater chain, says that if there is a tax of even 2 percent on the popcorn that he buys from the United States, he'll be forced to switch suppliers to get his kernels cheaper.

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"We import all of our corn for movie theaters from the US thanks to the fact that there's free trade," Ramirez told Bloomberg. "If that wasn't the case—if we go to pre-NAFTA tariff levels—then it would be cheaper to bring it from Argentina."

While the US is the largest consumer of popcorn in the world, Mexico accounts for the largest share of US popcorn exports. Ramirez currently spends $10 million a year alone on popcorn from Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa. His company also spends roughly $40 million on US products annually, buying up American-made projectors, screens, and $6.5 million on Wisconsin cheese to pour all over the theaters' nachos. (Yes, the cheese on Mexican nachos is actually from American cows.)

America would probably be fine without Ramirez's business alone, but considering we charge Mexico roughly $2 billion for popcorn exports each year, it could be devastating if more theaters in the country followed suit.