Trump’s threat­ened tar­iffs on hold af­ter Mex­ico deal

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY JILL COLVIN, MATTHEW LEE AND LUIS ALONSO LUGO As­so­ci­ated Press

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has put on hold his plan to be­gin im­pos­ing tar­iffs on Mex­ico on Mon­day, say­ing the U.S. ally will take “strong mea­sures” to re­duce the flow of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants into the United States.

But the deal he an­nounced Fri­day night, af­ter re­turn­ing from a trip to Europe, falls short of some of the dra­matic over­hauls pushed for by his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

A joint dec­la­ra­tion re­leased by the State Depart­ment said the U.S. “will im­me­di­ately ex­pand” a pro­gram that re­turns asy­lum-seek­ers, while their claims are un­der re­view, to Mex­ico af­ter they have crossed the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der. Mex­ico will “of­fer jobs, health­care and ed­u­ca­tion” to those peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the agree­ment.

Mex­ico has agreed, it said, to “un­prece­dented steps to in­crease en­force­ment to curb ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion,” in­clud­ing the de­ploy­ment of the Mex­i­can Na­tional Guard through­out the coun­try, espe­cially on its south­ern bor­der with Gu­atemala.

Trump put the num­ber of troops at 6,000, and said in a tweet Satur­day, “Mex­ico will try very hard, and if they do that, this will be a very suc­cess­ful agree­ment for both the United States and Mex­ico!”

Mex­ico’s pres­i­dent, An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said on Twit­ter that “Thanks to the sup­port of all Mex­i­cans, the im­po­si­tion of tar­iffs on Mex­i­can prod­ucts ex­ported to the USA has been avoided.” He called for a gath­er­ing Satur­day to cel­e­brate in Ti­juana.

Yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Trump’s “threats and tem­per tantrums are no way to ne­go­ti­ate for­eign pol­icy,” espe­cially with “our close friend.”

The State Depart­ment said Mex­ico is tak­ing “de­ci­sive ac­tion to dis­man­tle hu­man smug­gling and traf­fick­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions as well as their il­licit fi­nan­cial and transporta­tion net­works.”

The agree­ment re­moves, for now, the threat of trade penal­ties that had elicited dire warnings from mem­bers of Trump’s own party about the po­ten­tial eco­nomic dam­age, higher con­sumer prices and an im­per­iled up­date to a North Amer­i­can trade deal.

Mex­ico’s for­eign sec­re­tary, Marcelo Ebrard, said he thought the deal struck “a fair bal­ance” be­cause the U.S. “had more dras­tic pro­pos­als and mea­sures at the start.”

But Leti­cia Calderon Cheluis, a mi­gra­tion ex­pert at the Mora In­sti­tute in Mex­ico City, said the agree­ment is es­sen­tially a se­ries of com­pro­mises solely by Mex­ico, which she said com­mit­ted to “a dou­ble clamp at both borders.”

Trump used so­cial me­dia to say he was “pleased to in­form you” about the deal with Mex­ico and said the threat­ened tar­iffs “are hereby in­def­i­nitely sus­pended.” He cited Mex­ico’s commitment to “strong mea­sures” in­tended “to greatly re­duce, or elim­i­nate” il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion from Mex­ico.

It was a sharp re­ver­sal, given that ear­lier Fri­day, his spokes­woman Sarah San­ders had told re­porters: “Our po­si­tion has not changed. The tar­iffs are go­ing for­ward as of Mon­day.”

The U.S. had an­nounced in De­cem­ber that it would make some asy­lum-seek­ers wait in Mex­ico while their cases were be­ing pro­cessed. But this move has been plagued with glitches, in­clud­ing in­cor­rect court dates, travel prob­lems and is­sues with lawyers reach­ing their clients.

Im­mi­gra­tion ac­tivists in the U.S. have chal­lenged the pro­gram in court, ar­gu­ing it vi­o­lates mi­grants’ le­gal rights. An ap­peals court re­cently over­turned a judge who had blocked the pro­gram. And Pelosi ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment about what she said was an ex­panded pol­icy that “vi­o­lates the rights of asy­lum­seek­ers un­der U.S. law and fails to ad­dress the root causes of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­gra­tion.”

Of­fi­cials from the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity were work­ing to spread the pro­gram along the bor­der be­fore the lat­est blowup. About 10,000 peo­ple have been re­turned to Mex­ico to wait the pro­cess­ing of their im­mi­gra­tion cases since the pro­gram be­gan Jan. 29.

Any siz­able in­crease may be dif­fi­cult to achieve. At just the San Ysidro cross­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, Mex­ico had been pre­pared to ac­cept up to 120 asy­lum-seek­ers per week. But for the first six weeks, only 40 peo­ple per week were re­turned.

More than 100,000 mi­grants are cur­rently cross­ing the U.S. bor­der each month, but not ev­ery­one claims asy­lum and mi­grants can wait an en­tire year be­fore mak­ing a claim.

Trump had threat­ened a 5% tar­iff on all Mex­i­can goods en­ter­ing the U.S. “un­til such time as il­le­gal mi­grants com­ing through Mex­ico, and into our Coun­try, STOP.”

U.S. of­fi­cials had laid out steps Mex­ico could take to pre­vent the tar­iffs, but many peo­ple had doubts that even those steps would be enough to sat­isfy Trump on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, a sig­na­ture is­sue of his pres­i­dency and one that he sees as cru­cial to his 2020 re-elec­tion cam­paign.

The 5% tax on all Mex­i­can goods would have risen ev­ery month, up to 25% un­der Trump’s plan.

THE AGREE­MENT RE­MOVES, FOR NOW, THE THREAT OF TRADE PENAL­TIES THAT HAD ELICITED DIRE WARNINGS FROM MEM­BERS OF TRUMP’S OWN PARTY ABOUT THE PO­TEN­TIAL ECO­NOMIC DAM­AGE, HIGHER CON­SUMER PRICES AND AN IM­PER­ILED UP­DATE TO A NORTH AMER­I­CAN TRADE DEAL.

HANS-MAXIMO MUSIELIK AP

A man rides a bicycle Satur­day next to a lo­cal mar­ket sell­ing piñatas of Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in Ti­juana, Mex­ico.

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