President Donald Trump earlier this week signed an executive order to start building a wall on the U.S – Mexico border, fulfilling the promise he made during his presidential campaign. He has also threatened to halt or tax remittances from the U.S. to Mexico to help pay for the wall; a move which could potentially boost interest in Bitcoin.
Also read: Trump’s Trade War With China Could Boost Chinese Bitcoin Demand
Trump’s Wall is Coming
An executive order signed by the President is legally binding. The wall along the 2,000-mile border is estimated to cost between $12 billion and $15 billion, according to Senate leader Mitch McConnell. However, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, Marc Rosenblum, estimates that the actual cost could exceed $25 billion. The U.S. government would also have to spend as much as $750 million a year to maintain the wall, according to an analysis conducted by Politico. Yet, many have said that the wall is impractical, expensive and ineffective for border control.
Nonetheless, the executive order is signed and McConnell said Congress will follow through on Trump’s border wall order. Now, the President has to find a way to pay for the wall, and to do so, he is considering halting or taxing remittances from the U.S. to Mexico.
Effects on Bitcoin Remittances to Mexico
Experts say that Mexicans will likely find a way to get cash across the border without paying taxes on them if President Trump does halt or tax remittances somehow. The head of Latin America research at Goldman Sachs, Alberto Ramos, said:
If you tax that money it won’t necessarily stay in the U.S. It can still go to Mexico through informal channels.
According to recent data from the World Bank, personal remittances received in Mexico exceeded $26 billion in 2015.
However, “the amount being sent through Bitcoin is negligible”, Tomas Alvarez Melis, CEO of Volabit, told Bitcoin.com. Volabit is a Mexican Bitcoin exchange and remittance service whose investors include Tim Draper and Barry Silbert.
“I do not think there will be a direct correlation between the blocking or taxing of remittances and bitcoin volume growth”, he noted. “The reason I don´t think bitcoin would take the front seat is due to the fact that it is hard for immigrants to access bitcoin in the U.S.”
He described various problems Mexican immigrants have such as having no bank accounts or no Social Security Numbers, making it difficult for them to use websites such as Coinbase. “I also do not see Localbitcoins as a viable option, the experience is too convoluted when compared to the simplicity of sending money through western union”, he noted.
Boosting Mexico’s Bitcoin Remittances
However, Melis outlined a few conditions which could cause Mexican bitcoin remittances to surge.
Firstly, the tax on remittances would have to be large enough to compel people to switch to bitcoin. Secondly, there needs to be “a service or services geared towards this Hispanic population with a very simple and streamlined process for buying and remitting bitcoin.” These services must speak Spanish but should not require bank accounts or social security numbers to use. Thirdly, he said there needs to be “a way for these services to not be targeted by the regulators the same way Western Union would be targeted to enforce the new rules”.
Meanwhile, Bitcoin startup Abra is getting ready to enter the space next month to provide peer-to-peer remittance services globally including to Mexico. People on both sides of Trump’s wall will be able to send and receive money instantly, privately, and securely using smartphones, without having a bank account.
Do you think Trump’s Wall or remittance tax will have a large effect on Bitcoin? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Abc 7 Chicago, Right Wing Now, and Shutterstock
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