US President Donald Trump renewed his threat Monday to impose tariffs on Mexico as controversy erupted over what exactly is in the countries’ new migration deal, which the Mexican government admitted would be reviewed in 45 days.
Trump reignited the pressure three days after granting a reprieve from tariffs that he had threatened to apply from this week to force the major US trading partner to boost measures against illegal immigrants trying to enter the United States.
In a series of statements and tweets, Trump alluded to still-secret provisions in the deal that he said would need approval by the Mexican Congress. “If for any reason the approval is not forthcoming, Tariffs will be reinstated!” he tweeted.
Central American migrants arrive in Ciudad Hidalgo in Chiapas State, Mexico, after illegally crossing the Suchiate river from Tecun Uman in Guatemala in a makeshift raft, on June 10, 2019
He did not go into details, but Mexico said it had agreed to discuss one of Trump’s top demands, a so-called “safe third country agreement” — in which migrants entering Mexican territory must apply for asylum there rather than the US — if the flow of undocumented Central Americans continues.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who led the Mexican negotiating team in Washington last week, said he had rebuffed the US demand for such a measure, but agreed to revisit the matter in 45 days.
“In the meeting with the vice president of the United States, they were insistent on the safe third country issue,” Ebrard told a press conference.
“We told them — I think it was the most important achievement of the negotiations — ‘let’s set a time period to see if what Mexico is proposing will work, and if not, we’ll sit down and see what additional measures'” are needed, he said.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (L) listens to Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard during a press conference in Mexico City on an immigration deal with the US
Told by reporters at the White House that Mexico has not confirmed its legislature will vote on the unspecified further measures, Trump answered: “I don’t think they’ll be denying it very long.”
Trump also angrily rebuffed criticism over a New York Times report that said the key terms of the deal were not new, and had in fact been agreed on months before his tariff threat.
– Controversial deal –
Economists had warned the pain of Trump’s threatened tariffs — which were to start at five percent Monday and rise incrementally to 25 percent by October — and Mexican retaliatory measures would have been acute for both countries, with potentially global spillover.
Markets breathed a sigh of relief over the deal struck Friday.
A Mexican migration agent asks a man for his documents at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Tapachula, Chiapas State, on June 10, 2019
But what is known of the agreement has drawn criticism from human rights groups who condemn what they call a draconian crackdown on migration and the criminalization of immigrants.
And as the contours of the deal continued to come to light, it appeared to grant Mexico only a temporary reprieve — with confusion surrounding key elements.
Under the deal, Mexico agreed to bolster security on its southern border and expand its policy of taking back asylum-seekers as the United States processes their claims.
Ebrard said Friday that the promised deployment of 6,000 officers from Mexico’s newly created National Guard to the southern border would begin Monday.
Arrests at the Mexico-US border
However, he appeared to backtrack Monday, saying the deployment would happen “as quickly as possible.”
There was no sign of a new deployment in Tapachula, the entry point for the large caravans that have crossed Mexico in recent months, Sky News Africa’s correspondents said.
Local officials said the federal government had indicated the new deployment could take around a week. In the meantime, it has sent 400 federal police reinforcements to the border, they said.
Ebrard also denied the deal contained anything on Mexico buying US farm goods, after Trump tweeted Saturday that “MEXICO HAS AGREED TO IMMEDIATELY BEGIN BUYING LARGE QUANTITIES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT FROM OUR GREAT PATRIOT FARMERS!”
In a further sign that the deal is a work in progress, Ebrard said Mexico and the US would hold talks with Guatemala, Panama, Brazil and the UN refugee agency on additional measures to control migration, because the solution “has to be regional.”