United States President Donald Trump (Reuters)
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WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY – The United States and Mexico struck a deal on Friday to avert a tariff war, with Mexico agreeing to rapidly expand a controversial asylum programme and deploy security forces to stem the flow of illegal Central American migrants.
U.S. President Donald Trump had threatened to impose 5% import tariffs on all Mexican goods starting on Monday if Mexico did not commit to do more to tighten its borders.
In a joint declaration after three days of talks in Washington, both countries said Mexico agreed to immediately expand along the entire border a programme that sends migrants seeking asylum in the United States to Mexico while they await adjudication of their cases.
Trump said Mexico had agreed to take strong measures to “reduce, or eliminate” illegal immigration from Mexico.
However, the deal fell short of a key U.S. demand that Mexico accept a “safe third country” designation that would have forced it to permanently take in most Central American asylum seekers.
“The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended,” Trump said in a tweet on Friday evening.
Frustrated by a recent surge of migrants that has overwhelmed U.S. resources on its southern border, Trump had used the threat of tariffs to pressure Mexico into making concessions.
He has made hard line efforts to reduce illegal immigration a cornerstone of his presidency and it is certain to be a key issue in his re-election bid next year.
But business groups and even some close Republican allies were unhappy with the prospect of tariffs on the top U.S. trade partner, saying they would damage the economy.
Duties on Mexico would also have left the United States fighting trade wars with two of its three largest trading partners, and would further unnerve financial markets already on edge about a global economic slowdown.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said in Washington his team had also resisted U.S. requests to send deported Guatemalans to Mexico. He said he was satisfied with the deal.
“I think it’s a fair balance because they had more drastic measures and proposals at the start and we reached some middle point,” he said, emphasising the importance to Mexico of having kept safe third country out of the deal.
He also highlighted U.S. support in the agreement for a Mexican proposal to jointly address underlying causes of migration from Central America. (Reuters)