Trump continues to dangle tariff threat over Mexico

Erika Holt
June 11, 2019

Mexico had already promised to take numerous actions agreed to in Friday's immigration deal with the USA - months before President Donald Trump's tariff threat, officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations told the New York Times in a story published Saturday.The Mexican government had pledged to deploy the National Guard nationwide with a focus on its southern border - a key part of Friday's agreement - during secret meetings in March between former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Mexican interior secretary Olga Sanchez in Miami, the officials told the Times.

Trump has defended the deal reached Friday with Mexico to avert a 5% tariff on all Mexican goods that was to take effect Monday.

Mexico said Monday it will discuss a "safe third country" agreement with the United States - in which migrants entering Mexican territory must apply for asylum there rather than the U.S. - if the flow of undocumented immigrants continues.

The deal would also send the Mexican National Guard police force to its own southern border, where many Central Americans enter Mexico.

The program was challenged in court earlier this year by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other rights groups which say it puts asylum seekers in danger and violates US and global law.

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The asylum program to be expanded is commonly known as Remain in Mexico, and now operates in the border cities of Tijuana, Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez.

Trump also pushed back at a New York Times report that the deal consisted of commitments previously agreed by Mexico, calling it a "false report".

From the moment he kicked off his campaign in 2015 by declaring that Mexico was "sending" criminals and "rapists" to the U.S., Trump has based his political career on sticking it to the Mexicans. But U.S. officials had already been working to expand the program, which has already led to the return of about 10,000 to Mexico without Mexico's public embrace. So Trump tried to save face by claiming that Mexico had caved into his tariff threats, so now he doesn't have to do tariffs.

Former World Trade Organization head Pascal Lamy called Trump's approach to coercing its neighbour and ally "hostage-taking", reflecting widely held concerns in Mexico that the US president will come back with more threats to extract greater concessions. Trump, who has called the surge in migrants an "invasion", had threatened to keep raising duties up to 25% unless Mexico did more to curb it. "We have been trying to get some of these Border Actions for a long time, as have other administrations, but were not able to get them, or get them in full, until our signed agreement with Mexico", he said in Sunday's tweets. He said if lawmakers in the country failed to cooperate, he would re-impose the tariffs. "So what we are expecting without the tariffs is an increase". Doing so, though, puts the lie to the claim that Trump supporters such as Hugh Hewitt and others have been making since Friday evening when the deal was announced.

"When will the Failing New York Times admit that their front page story on the new Mexico deal at the Border is a FRAUD and nothing more than a badly reported "hit job" on me, something that has been going on since the first day I announced for the presidency!" That will be announced at the appropriate time, ' he wrote.

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