Secretary Ross, Mexico’s Economy Minister to Meet Ahead of Tariff Talks

By Bowen Xiao

A top Mexican official will meet with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Washington on June 3, two days before a previously planned summit between the two neighboring countries where they are slated to discuss newly imposed tariffs on Mexican goods.

The high-level discussions will start earlier than scheduled after Mexico’s Economy Minister Graciela Marquez announced details of a meeting with Ross in a June 2 post on Twitter. Accompanying her post was a photo of her standing next to Ross. The pair had met while attending the inaugaration of El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele.

The earlier in-person meeting comes as Mexico attempts to defuse trade tensions resulting from the current migrant crisis on the border. President Donald Trump imposed a 5 percent tariff on all goods from Mexico that will gradually increase to as much as 25 percent if Mexico fails to stop throngs of illegal immigrants from passing through the country to illegally enter the United States.

Days ago, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said a major delegation led by him will meet with U.S. officials in Washington on June 5. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead the U.S. delegation as Ebrard will be accompanied by deputy foreign minister for North America, Jesus Seade.

The White House did not respond by press time to a request for comment on the meeting.

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

Meanwhile in remarks on June 1, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador hinted that his country could tighten migration controls in a bid to avoid Trump’s newly imposed tariffs, signalling a push for dialogue.

Trump has said that Mexico has not taken enough action to stem the flow of illegal immigrants crossing the Southern Border, most who are entering through Mexico from Central America. Mexico’s economy, which relies heavily on exports to the United States, shrank in the first quarter. In the meantime, Border Patrol officials said that as of May 10, they had apprehended more than 500,000 illegal aliens on the southern border this fiscal year.

Lopez Obrador said at a news conference that Mexico wanted to reach a deal with the United States and to find a way to avoid the tariffs. He said he is expecting “good results” from the upcoming talks.

“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. He also said that Mexico will not attempt a trade war with the United States.

The remarks from Mexico’s president follows those of Seade, who told Reuters days ago that the country wants to sharpen existing measures to curb the flow of Central Americans entering the United States through their country.

The tariffs, Trump said previously, would go into effect on June 10 and would increase until the “illegal immigration problem is remedied.” In April, U.S. border officers apprehended nearly 99,000 people crossing the U.S. southern border, the highest monthly figure since 2007.

Won’t Affect Trade Deal

Top Trump administration officials said on June 2 that the president’s newly proposed tariffs will not interfere with the finalization of a North American trade pact.

Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, said on “Fox News Sunday” that the tariffs were “not interrelated” with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, known as the USMCA, currently awaiting approval by the U.S. Congress. He expected the 5% tariffs to take effect on June 10 because “the president is deadly serious about fixing the situation at the southern border.”

Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the tariffs would not worsen Mexico’s economic situation and drive more migrants over the border, but instead incentivize Mexico to curtail the flow of Central American immigrants that cross through on the way to the United States.

“We need Mexico to step up and do more. And these crossings into Mexico are happening at a 150-mile stretch of their Southern border,” McAleenan said on CNN’s “State of the Union”. “This is a controllable area. We need them to put their authorities down there and interdict these folks before they make this route all the way to the U.S.”

McAleenan said he wanted Mexico to bolster its own immigration screenings along the country’s southern border, to crack down on the networks that are transporting the migrants throughout Mexico and to enable more migrants to wait in Mexico while they apply for asylum in the U.S.

Previously, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told CNBC in a May 31 interview that the president’s move was not a “tariff war,” but simply a measure to get Mexico “to do what it should be doing.”

Trump meanwhile described Mexico as an “abuser” of the United States on June 2 and offered an ultimatum: either stop the “invasion” along the southern border or U.S. companies will be “brought back” through the new tariffs. The president made the comments in a string of early morning posts, ending one of them with “America has had enough!”

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times