U.S., Mex­i­can of­fi­cials work on deal ahead of tariffs

Lodi News-Sentinel - - LOCAL/NATION - By Tracy Wilkin­son and Noah Bierman

WASH­ING­TON — Faced with stiff op­po­si­tion from po­lit­i­cal al­lies over a po­ten­tially costly trade war with a ma­jor part­ner, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day again threat­ened to im­pose es­ca­lat­ing tariffs on Mex­ico, but also hinted at a pos­si­ble route to back down.

Mex­i­can of­fi­cials, in a high-level meet­ing at the White House that lasted about two hours, of­fered a pack­age of steps they were tak­ing to meet Trump’s demands that they stem the flow of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants. They noted, how­ever, that the mea­sures, such as tougher check­points and more de­por­ta­tions, have been in place for months. The talks are sched­uled to re­sume Thurs­day.

It was not clear, how­ever, if the last- minute talks and warnings would be suf­fi­cient to stave off Mon­day’s sched­uled tar­iff hike.

“Progress is be­ing made. But not nearly enough!” Trump said on Twit­ter af­ter the White House meet­ing ended.

Ear­lier, speak­ing to re­porters dur­ing a visit to Ire­land, Trump said he be­lieved that Mex­ico “wants to make a deal.”

“The drugs that are com­ing in, the peo­ple that are com­ing in unchecked, they’re swamp­ing our border,” Trump said. “Mex­ico can stop it. ... And I think they will stop it.”

But if Mex­ico doesn’t “step up,” he said, “the tariffs go on.”

Ar­turo Sarukhan, the for­mer Mex­i­can am­bas­sador to the United States who now works as a con­sul­tant in Wash­ing­ton, said he ex­pects to see the tariffs take ef­fect Mon­day, although they might only re­main in place briefly.

“My sense with this pres­i­dent is he wants to be able to prove he has slapped on tariffs, even if for just 48 hours, to be able to say he did it,” he said.

The White House meet­ing was chaired by Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Sec­re­tary of State Michael R. Pom­peo and held at the urg­ing of the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who dis­patched his for­eign min­is­ter, Marcelo Ebrard, to Wash­ing­ton af­ter Trump threat­ened to hit Mex­i­can im­ports with tariffs start­ing Mon­day.

The Mex­i­can del­e­ga­tion grew to in­clude sev­eral Cabi­net mem­bers, among them the min­is­ters of fi­nance, agri­cul­ture, de­fense and navy, re­flect­ing alarm in the Lopez Obrador gov­ern­ment, al­ready strug­gling with a stag­nant econ­omy.

After­ward, Ebrard de­scribed the talks as “re­spect­ful.”

“We could ex­plain our po­si­tion, they theirs, and noth­ing was re­jected” out of hand, he said. “The im­por­tant thing is there is a will­ing­ness to move more closely to­ward an un­der­stand­ing.”

Im­mi­gra­tion flows have grown too high, and “it can­not go on as it is,” he added.

Trump has come un­der con­sid­er­able pres­sure from fel­low Repub­li­cans and from busi­ness lead­ers in agri­cul­ture, auto man­u­fac­tur­ing and other eco­nomic sec­tors that gen­er­ally have sup­ported him, all warn­ing of the dan­gers of im­pos­ing tariffs on a trad­ing part­ner as large and in­te­grated into the U.S. econ­omy as Mex­ico.

Ebrard, too, cau­tioned that tariffs would be “dev­as­tat­ing” to both na­tions’ economies and would force Mex­ico to con­sider re­tal­ia­tory puni­tive mea­sures.

There were sev­eral signs that the ad­min­is­tra­tion was look­ing for a way out.

Peter Navarro, the White House trade ad­viser, who ini­tially cham­pi­oned pun­ish­ing the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment, told CNN on Wed­nes­day morn­ing that the mea­sures may no longer be nec­es­sary be­cause the ad­min­is­tra­tion had suc­ceeded in get­ting Mex­ico’s at­ten­tion.

Sen. Charles E. Grass­ley, R-Iowa, who has been firmly op­posed to the tar­iff plan, said he was con­fi­dent it was go­ing to be averted.

“There’s not go­ing to be any tariffs,” Grass­ley said. He said he ex­pected the Mex­i­can del­e­ga­tion at the White House to present a “long list of things they’re go­ing to of­fer to us” that would make tariffs un­nec­es­sary.

“I did have a good feel­ing about progress be­ing made, and Mex­ico’s up here to make good-faith of­fers, and they know that this is a part­ner­ship that they want to main­tain,” he told re­porters on Capi­tol Hill.

Sen. Mitt Rom­ney, R-Utah, made a sim­i­lar pre­dic­tion. “I do ex­pect the Mex­i­can ad­min­is­tra­tion and the White House to work out a deal,” he said. “No one wants to see tariffs, and the pres­i­dent knows that the Se­nate is not anx­ious to see tariffs.”

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