WASHINGTON – U.S. and Mexican officials laboured for a second day Thursday to avert import tariffs that President Donald Trump is threatening to impose as he tries to strong-arm Mexico into stemming the flood of Central American migrants at America’s southern border.
Both sides claimed headway in a lengthy meeting Wednesday, but Trump said a “lot of progress” must still be made to halt the five per cent tax on all Mexican goods that he has threatened to impose Monday as part of an escalating tariff regime opposed by many in his own Republican Party.
Underscoring the scope of the border problem, the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday that U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions of migrants illegally crossing the border hit the highest level in more than a decade in May: 132,887 apprehensions, including a record 84,542 adults and children travelling together and 11,507 children travelling alone.
Trump, who is currently travelling in Europe, tweeted from Ireland that the Washington talks would continue “with the understanding that, if no agreement is reached, Tariffs at the 5% level will begin on Monday, with monthly increases as per schedule.”
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard spent several hours at the State Department Thursday morning, and additional talks were expected in the afternoon at the White House between Trump’s legal counsel and other Mexican aides. But it remained unclear what kind of deal could be struck with Trump out of the country, and U.S. officials were preparing for the tariffs to kick in barring major Mexican action.
“We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters in Ireland before leaving for France to attend a D-Day ceremony. “But something pretty dramatic could happen. We’ve told Mexico the tariffs go on. And I mean it, too. And I’m very happy with it.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hinting he’s not worried about these tensions interfering with the ratification of the new North American trade pact.
“The Mexican government has indicated that the tariffs, or these threats of tariffs by the American administration towards them, will not interfere with their ratification process, and we will take them at their word,” he says.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement has been signed by all three countries but must be approved by their legislatures.