Trump Sees ‘Good Chance’ of Mexico Migration Deal as Clock Ticks Down to Tariffs

By Reuters

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITYPresident Donald Trump said on June 7 there was a “good chance” that the United States would be able to reach a deal with Mexico over a surge of migrants on their common border, although his administration was still pushing ahead with a plan to impose import tariffs on all Mexican goods next week.

Trump has threatened to impose the levies starting at 5 percents on June 10 if the Mexican government does not agree to do more to tackle an increase in mostly Central American migrants crossing Mexico to enter the United States.

U.S. border officers apprehended more than 132,000 people crossing from Mexico in May, the highest monthly level since 2006.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump board Air Force One as they depart Shannon international airport en route to Washington, in Shannon, Ireland, on June 7, 2019. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The two sides started a third day of talks in Washington on Friday to reach a deal.

“If we are able to make the deal with Mexico, & there is a good chance that we will, they will begin purchasing Farm & Agricultural products at very high levels, starting immediately,” Trump said in tweet. “If we are unable to make the deal, Mexico will begin paying Tariffs at the 5 percents level on Monday!”

Officials have said the talks have centered on migration rather than trade.

Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, said earlier on Friday that the United States was moving ahead with a legal notification of the tariffs on Mexican goods. “You should anticipate that happening today,” he said at the White House.

Vice President Pence
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) annual meeting at National Harbor near Washington, on March 1, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

The notification could still be turned off over the weekend by the president, Short said. Trump is returning to Washington from a European trip on Friday.

“The president’s going to … look at a bunch of options, and weigh all the options over the weekend,” outgoing White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told CNBC. “People feel like they’re going to be presenting the president when he gets back with some positive choices.”

Mexican Optimism

Trump has warned that the initial tariffs on Mexico will be incrementally increased each month up to 25 percents if a migration deal fails to materialize, however.

Mexico is scrambling to avoid such a scenario.

“It’s a good sign that talks have not broken down,” Lopez Obrador told reporters in Mexico City. “There is dialogue and an agreement can be reached. I’m optimistic we can achieve that.”

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says Mexico will not respond to U.S. President Donald Trump's threat of coercive tariffs
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says Mexico will not respond to President Donald Trump’s threat of coercive tariffs with desperation, but instead push for dialogue, during a press conference at the National Palace, in Mexico City, on May 31, 2019. (Ginnette Riquelme/AP)

The Mexican president is due to make a statement on Saturday at a meeting of politicians, businesses and unions in the border city of Tijuana.

Mexico has prepared a list of possible retaliatory tariffs targeting U.S. products from agricultural and industrial states regarded as Trump’s electoral base, a tactic the Chinese regime has also used with an eye toward the Republican president’s 2020 re-election bid.

Such a move would leave the United States fighting trade wars with two of its three largest trading partners.

The United States imposed up to 25 percents tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports last month, prompting Beijing to levy its own tariffs on $60 billion in American goods. Trump said on Thursday he would decide later this month whether to hit Beijing with tariffs on an additional list of $300 billion in Chinese goods.

Mexico's Foreign Minister Ebrard speaks to reporters after U.S.-Mexico talks at State Department in Washington
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard exits the U.S. State Department to speak to reporters after a meeting between U.S. and Mexican officials on immigration and trade in Washington, on June 6, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Trump has taken a hard line on immigration and rebalanced global trade in favor of the United States as part of his “America First” agenda.

On Thursday, Mexico said it had offered to send 6,000 national guard troops to its border with Guatemala to secure the crossing. Officials at the talks have indicated that protocols around sending asylum seekers to Mexico or other third countries while their U.S. claims are processed are also part of the mix.

By Makini Brice and Anthony Esposito