President Donald Trump flies to California to promote his push for more border walls keeping out what he says is a “crisis” influx of migrants and drug smugglers (NICHOLAS KAMM)
Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump flew Friday to visit newly built fencing on the Mexican border, even as he retreated from a threat to shut the frontier over what he says is an out-of-control influx of migrants and drugs.
Boarding the Marine One helicopter at the White House on his way to Calexico, California, Trump said his border closing threat had succeeded in persuading Mexico to stop many would be illegal immigrants on their northward journey.
“Mexico, I have to say, has been very, very good… over the last four days since I talked about shutting down the border,” he said.
Trump indicated that closing the border is no longer on the cards at present, but reiterated a new warning that he will impose 25 percent tariffs on auto imports from Mexico if illegal migration and drug smuggling is not controlled.
“If they don’t, we’re going to tariff their cars at 25 percent coming into the United States,” he said.
Trump said he could still order the border closed later. “I may shut it down at some point but I’d rather do tariffs,” he said.
Despite Trump’s insistence that he had not climbed down on the border closure threat, his shift to threatening tariffs instead was clearly a major retreat.
Until Thursday, the White House had been signalling that Trump could imminently order a full or partial closure of the huge border in response to what Trump says is a “crisis” and “national emergency.”
There had even been speculation that he might announce such a move during his visit to Calexico, an area where new high fencing has been erected as part of Trump’s plan for expanding border walls.
The idea caused alarm among economists and Congress, including in Trump’s Republican Party. Mexico is the third largest US trading partner and any hold ups at the border crossings would have an immediate impact on trade.
– Tariffs confusion –
Although a border closing has been hurriedly pushed back, the tariffs idea is causing confusion.
On Thursday, Trump indicated there would be a one-year deadline for Mexico to improve the situation before tariffs kicked in. However it was not clear if he meant that both for the drug smuggling and migration, or whether he wanted the migration issue resolved immediately.
On Friday, he tweeted that tariffs would be slapped on Mexican-built cars “if for any reason Mexico stops apprehending and bringing the illegals back to where they came from.”
It was unclear how such tariffs would fit into the countries’ deeply intertwined trading relationship, which is governed by NAFTA, a free trade accord also including Canada that is due to be replaced by an updated version called the USMCA.
Leaders of the three countries signed the USMCA in November after more than a year of negotiations.
Trump said Friday that his tariffs would “supersede USMCA. It’s a great deal, and it’s very good for Mexico. But this will supersede USMCA.”
Disclaimer: Validity of the above story is for 7 Days from original date of publishing. Source: AFP.