Mexico Caves To Trump, Starts Negotiations On Tariffs

Mexico’s Economy Minister Graciela Marquez said on Sunday she would meet with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Washington on Monday, two days before the neighboring countries are due to discuss possible tariffs on Mexican goods.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose punitive tariffs of 5% on Mexican goods, that would gradually increase to 25%, if Mexico did not stem migration north.

Mexico’s deputy minister of foreign trade Luz Maria de la Mora later specified in a tweet that both would analyze the commercial relationship between the two countries, adding that Mexico had become the United States’ largest trade partner in early 2019.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had been optimistic that they could find a way to avoid the tariffs.

Meanwhile, Trump called Mexico an “abuser” in tweets on Sunday morning. He called for a construction of a wall along the United States’ southern border and reiterated threats of tariffs.

“Our many companies and jobs that have been foolishly allowed to move South of the Border, will be brought back into the United States through taxation (Tariffs),” Trump wrote. “America has had enough!”

Marquez and Ross met in El Salvador, where both attended the inauguration of the Central American country’s new president, Nayib Bukele, in San Salvador.

Mexico’s president on Saturday hinted his country could tighten migration controls to defuse U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexican goods, and said he expected “good results” from talks planned in Washington next week.

Trump said on Thursday he will apply the tariffs on June 10 if Mexico does not halt the flow of illegal immigration, largely from Central America, across the U.S.-Mexican border.

His ultimatum hit Mexican financial assets and global stocks, but met resistance from U.S. business leaders and lawmakers worried about the impact of targeting Mexico, one of the United States’ top trade partners.

In a news conference in the Gulf of Mexico port of Veracruz, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Mexico could be ready to step up measures to contain migration in order to reach a deal with the United States.

A Mexican delegation led by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard will discuss the dispute with U.S. officials in Washington on Wednesday, and Lopez Obrador said he expected “good results” from the talks, and for a deal to emerge.

“The main thing is to inform about what we’re already doing on the migration issue, and if it’s necessary to reinforce these measures without violating human rights, we could be prepared to reach that deal,” Lopez Obrador said.

Trump’s threat to inflict pain on Mexico’s economy is the biggest foreign policy test to date for Lopez Obrador and a tall order for Mexican authorities struggling not only to contain migration but also to fight record gang violence.

Mexico’s economy relies heavily on exports to the United States and shrank in the first quarter. Under Trump’s plan, U.S. tariffs that could rise as high as 25% this year.

Lopez Obrador said Mexico would not engage in any trade wars with the United States, but noted that his government had a “plan” in case Trump did apply the tariffs to ensure the country was not impoverished. He did not provide details of the plan.

Mexico wants to sharpen existing measures in its bid to narrow a flood of Central American migrants to the U.S. border, a top Mexican official said on Friday, ahead of planned meetings in Washington over tariffs threatened by President Donald Trump.

Trump on Thursday said he would introduce the tariffs, starting at 5% on June 10 and quickly ratcheting higher if Mexico did not substantially halt illegal immigration, largely from Central America, across the U.S.-Mexican border.

“To avoid these flows that go from Central America to the United States in large numbers I think we can make progress with traditional mechanisms and better exercise existing rules,” said Jesus Seade, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America.

Asked if Mexico might agree to be classified as a “safe third country” where asylum seekers would have to lodge claims instead of the United States, he replied, “That is not something we are working with.”

Seade declined to give further details of what more Mexico could do to stem immigration, citing the delicate nature of the talks in Washington.

Trump’s ultimatum is the biggest foreign policy test yet for Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and a tall order for security forces already struggling to reduce migrant flows and combat record levels of gang violence and homicide.

Trump’s pressure has spurred Mexico to step up the number of undocumented immigrants it detains and deports in recent months, but numbers reaching the U.S. border have also risen.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard traveled to Washington on Friday and is to be joined by Seade on Sunday. On Wednesday they will meet a U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to resolve the dispute.

Seade said the Mexican team was setting up other meetings for Monday and Tuesday, and had spoken ahead of the trip with the United States Trade Representative.

“I had a good conversation with (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, but in reality the issue at hand has more to do with immigration,” he added.

Trump has pledged to end the wave of tens of thousands of asylum seekers, including many Central American families fleeing poverty and violence, who make the arduous journey north to seek refuge in the United States.

In the biggest migrant surge on the U.S-Mexican border in a decade, U.S. officials say 80,000 people are in custody, with an average of 4,500 mostly Central American migrants arriving each day, overwhelming the handling resources of border officials.

The number of migrants arrested on the southwest border last month was 98,977, a record.

As part of the U.S. effort to stem the flow, Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Guatemala government agreed to boost law enforcement cooperation, the DHS said on Friday.

“Included in the agreement is a provision on law enforcement training to improve criminal investigations that disrupt human trafficking and drug smuggling networks,” the DHS said in a statement.

Such networks are often run by transnational criminal groups that profit from human suffering, it added.

A Mexican government source said McAleenan and Guatemala’s government agreed on the presence of DHS “advisers” in the Central American nation, but Mexico was not part of the pact.

Since taking office in December, Lopez Obrador has urged Trump to help him tackle migration by promoting economic development in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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