Facing five percent tariffs: Cargo truck drivers line up to cross to the United States at Otay commercial crossing in Tijuana, Mexico (Guillermo Arias)
Washington (AFP) – The United States warned Friday that President Donald Trump’s punitive tariffs on imports from Mexico were on course to take effect next week, despite headway in talks on stemming the surge in migration towards the US border.
“Our position hasn’t changed,” Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Air Force One en route to Shannon, Ireland, as President Donald Trump wrapped up a week-long trip to Europe.
“They’ve made a lot of progress,” she said. “The meetings have gone well, but as of now we’re still on track for tariffs on Monday.”
As Washington continued to dial up the pressure on its southern neighbor — which has already pledged to deploy thousands of troops to tackle the migration crisis — Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador insisted there was still time to avoid the tariffs.
“I see it as positive that (the talks) haven’t broken off. Neither side has left the negotiating table,” he said in Mexico City.
“I’m optimistic that we can reach a deal.”
Marc Short, chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence — who has overseen the talks while Trump travelled in Europe — said the White House was poised to issue a legal notification Friday for the tariffs to go ahead on Monday.
But he also said Trump could choose at the last moment to call off the tariffs, which could deal a stunning blow to the Mexican economy.
“I think there is the ability, if negotiations continue to go well, that the president can turn that off at some point over the weekend,” Short said.
– US wants migrant flow stopped –
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard launched into a third day of negotiations at the State Department around 9:00 am Friday (1300 GMT) but no details were available on the sticking points between the two sides.
The Trump administration has demanded Mexico take tough action to halt the flow of hundreds of thousands of Central American migrants towards the United States, insisting it lock down its border with Guatemala and agree to let asylum seekers register their claims inside Mexico.
Last week Trump announced that, starting from Monday, June 10, a five percent tariff would be applied to all goods from export-dependent Mexico, rising by five percentage points each month to a high of 25 percent, until US demands on migrant controls were satisfied.
Mexico has scrambled to appease Washington, agreeing Thursday to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops to its southern border, blocking a new migrant caravan and freezing the bank accounts of suspected human traffickers.
“We’re going to have a national guard nationwide, so it should help accompany the return of migrants to their home countries,” Lopez Obrador said.
Trump issued the threat of tariffs last week amid frustration over the huge numbers of migrants traveling northward across Mexico to seek entry in the United States on asylum claims.
– 144,000 migrants detained in May –
The number of migrants detained or blocked at the border surged to 144,000 in May, triple the level a year earlier.
Border officials say most are fleeing chronic poverty and violence in three Central American countries — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Most are families, who understand that if they cross the border and are detained, they will likely be processed and released into the United States, whether they ask for asylum or not, according to Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost.
“They are told by smugglers, they are hearing announcements in their own country, that if they come right now and bring a child, they will be released,” she told CNN on Thursday.
“That is a true statement, because we cannot hold them longer than 20 days if they have a child.”
Disclaimer: Validity of the above story is for 7 Days from original date of publishing. Source: AFP.