President Donald Trump said tariffs on Mexican goods are “indefinitely suspended” after negotiators from the US and Mexico were able to reach a deal on immigration enforcement.
“I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico,” Trump tweeted Friday. “The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended.”
The announcement was a dramatic reversal of a sudden tariff threat that Trump himself had announced last week in an attempt to put more pressure on the Mexican government to stem the flow of migrants into the US. Trump spent much of the intervening period out of the country, visiting with European leaders and attending a state dinner in the United Kingdom, while negotiators worked feverishly to avoid another escalation in his foreign trade wars.
The decision capped three days of intense discussions in Washington between Mexican officials and the Trump administration, with talks between Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and State Department officials lasting for more than 11 hours Friday.
Trump had threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican goods entering the US if Mexico did not limit the number of migrants moving through the country to the US. He said late Friday, after he had returned to the White House from his visit to Europe for D-Day commemorations, that the Mexican officials had agreed to his demands.
“Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border,” Trump tweeted. “This is being done to greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States. Details of the agreement will be released shortly by the State Department. Thank you!”
A declaration amid a crisis
In a joint declaration, the US and Mexico said Mexico will take “unprecedented steps” to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration, including the deployment of its National Guard, along with “decisive action” to dismantle human smuggling.
The countries also agreed that those crossing the US-Mexican border to seek asylum will be “rapidly returned” to Mexico, where they will await adjudication of their asylum claims. Mexico, the declaration says, will authorize the entrance of those individuals. Mexico says it will offer them jobs, health care and education.
The deal comes amid a surge in migrants crossing into the US, straining the resources of federal immigration and border authorities. More than 144,000 migrants were encountered or arrested at the US-Mexico border in May, US Customs and Border Protection said this week, a roughly 32% increase from the previous month and the highest monthly total in more than a decade.
Of those, nearly 133,000 crossed the US-Mexico border illegally, including more than 11,000 unaccompanied children.
Mexico has already pledged to send about 6,000 National Guard troops to its southern border with Guatemala in a bid to cut off the flow of Central American migrants whose journey to the US’s southern border has led to the steep spike in border crossings in recent months.
But US officials demanded more.
US officials pressed Mexico to change its asylum policy by entering into a “safe third country” agreement with the US. Mexico had rejected those offers in the past, but US officials said Mexico was more open to some version of this idea in talks on Thursday. The goal was to require Central American migrants to face asylum proceedings in Mexico or the first country they cross through, rather than in the US.
Mexican officials, meanwhile, urged the US to address the root causes of Central American migration by investing in programs that would reduce poverty and violence in those countries. Trump, though, moved earlier this year to cut US foreign aid to those countries, a move even US officials say is counterproductive.
Diplomats celebrate avoiding tariff confrontation
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday night praised his counterpart in the Mexican Foreign Ministry, thanking Ebrard and his team for their hard work in negotiating a deal.
“We would like to thank Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard for his hard work to negotiate a set of joint obligations that benefit both the United States and Mexico,” Pompeo said in a statement. “The United States looks forward to working alongside Mexico to fulfill these commitments so that we can stem the tide of illegal migration across our southern border and to make our border strong and secure.”
Mexican Ambassador to the US Martha Barcena also praised Ebrard, and said the deal would address what she called a humanitarian crisis on the border.
“Mexico will strengthen the measures for the implementation of its immigration law. Provide job, education and health opportunities for people who wait in Mexican territory for the end of their asylum process in the US,” Barcena tweeted.
Days of pressured negotiations
Administration officials had said earlier Friday that they were prepared to move forward with the threatened tariffs on Mexico, even as negotiations continued in Washington over addressing the immigration issues at the heart of the standoff.
The Trump administration was expected to submit legal notification on Friday of its intention to implement tariffs Monday on Mexico, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short said. But Short said Trump could “turn that off” over the weekend if negotiations “continue to go well,” which appeared to be the route Trump chose Friday.
“There’s a legal notification that goes forward today with a plan to implement tariffs on Monday, but 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 had told reporters at the White House on Friday morning.
Trump faced a Friday deadline to sign an executive order to ensure the tariffs go into effect by Monday, his deadline for Mexico to meet his immigration demands or face a 5% tariff on all exports to the US.
Trump on Thursday had said “a lot of progress was made” earlier this week in talks with Mexican officials, but repeatedly stood by his vow to impose the tariffs, despite criticism from some Republicans, who have urged him to delay the implementation.
Some Republican lawmakers had expressed concern about the impact of tariffs on all goods that cross into the US from Mexico, a move that could ultimately lead to higher prices for US consumers and hurt US businesses as well as the Mexican economy.
Short hit back at the uneasy Republican lawmakers earlier Friday.
“We wish that members of Congress would spend as much time looking to fix the problem legislatively as they do bellyaching about what the President is doing trying to fix the problem,” Short said when asked about Republican opposition to his tariffs.
Short said specifically that the administration wants Congress to change US asylum laws that “allow families to basically come across the border and be protected and let go into our United States until the adjudication process completes.”