Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Saturday said he thinks US officials are prepared to negotiate on US President Donald Trump’s threat to use tariffs as a tool to fight illegal migration across the border.
“There is willingness on the part of US government officials to establish dialogue and reach agreements and compromises,” he told a news conference.
He did not say what gave him reason to believe this, though he noted that his government had contacted both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser.
Trump’s surprise announcement on Thursday of new tariffs against a key US trading partner was widely criticized, including by US business groups, border-state politicians and some Republican lawmakers. It sent global markets slumping on Friday.
Trump appeared to have no regrets about the move, tweeting on Saturday: “When you are the ‘Piggy Bank’ Nation that foreign countries have been robbing and deceiving for years, the word TARIFF is a beautiful word indeed!”
“Others must treat the United States fairly and with respect - We are no longer the ‘fools’ of the past!” he wrote.
Lopez Obrador said a Mexican delegation led by Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard would meet Wednesday in Washington with Pompeo to discuss the tariffs.
Trump on Thursday said that tariffs starting at 5 percent and gradually increasing to 25 percent would be applied to all Mexican imports beginning on June 10, unless Mexico does more to halt the flow of undocumented migrants.
“Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades,” Trump said in a tweet.
Lopez Obrador on Friday said that Mexico was “doing our job” to stem the flow of undocumented migrants — many of them fleeing poverty and violence in Central America — and he warned Trump that new tariffs would be a lose-lose game.
From January to April, Mexican authorities detained 51,607 migrants, a 17 percent increase from the same period last year, according to official figures.
On Saturday, Lopez Obrador voiced confidence on the talks.
“The results are going to be good because there is an atmosphere that is favorable to dialogue both in this country and in the United States,” he said, adding that he doubted the tariffs would ultimately take effect.
“It is in everyone’s interest to reach an agreement,” he said.
The US tariffs would be devastating for Mexico, which sends 80 percent of its exports to the US.
Analysts said Trump’s shock move jeopardized the chances for ratifying a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, known as the USMCA. His announcement came the same day that the US began the process of ratifying the pact.
“The move is seen as a further disruption for US manufacturing supply chains, adding to consumer costs, with the uncertainty undermining business investment,” Raymond James chief economist Scott Brown said on the investment firm’s Web site.
It might also undercut chances for resolving the continuing US trade conflict with China, analysts said, by raising questions about whether US negotiators can be trusted.
However, trade with Mexico is, in some ways, more deeply intertwined with US jobs and manufacturing. Many products, like cars, appliances and computers, are partially produced on one side of the border and finished on the other.
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