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Trump backs away from tariffs after Mexico agrees to immigration deal

American negotiators had been asking Mexico since July 2018 to do more to stop the flow of migrants

Steven T Dennis Eric Martin & Nick Wadhams | Bloomberg 

Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump

President pushed — and his own party — to the brink when he threatened massive new tariffs over illegal immigration. And he now has a cross-border deal to show for it.

He also added another chapter in his now-familiar pattern on tariffs: threaten to go big, pull back at the last minute.

Trump announced late Friday that he wouldn’t impose a sliding scale of tariffs on goods from — from 5 per cent to 25 per cent over time — after that nation agreed to take a tougher stance on immigration, which was his goal all along. Trump on Saturday tweeted that also will buy “large quantities” of agricultural products, which stipulation not included in a joint statement.

Mexico did commit to doing more — deploy troops to help curb illegal migration and agree to care for Central Americans seeking asylum in the US indefinitely as their cases wind through the system.

American negotiators had been asking Mexico since the election of in July 2018 to do more to stop the flow of migrants. But it was only in the past week, under the threat of tariffs, that they felt Mexico had begun negotiating seriously, according to a US official.

“Mexico successfully avoided the catastrophe of tariffs but will pay a heavy price,” said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington. “Potentially tens of thousands of refugee claimants will have to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed. Mexico will have to house, employ, educate and provide health care for them. This is a huge commitment” for the government.

Mexico has been gearing up to address the surge of migrants, with Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, saying Thursday the country was prepared to deploy about 6,000 guard troops. And the country already has been hosting asylum seekers while their cases were being processed.

The US originally demanded that Central American migrants apply for asylum in Mexico instead of the US But Mexico beat back that demand. Also, there was no formal language related to increased purchases of US agricultural products, as Trump promised on Twitter, but on Saturday he used Twitter to announce, in call capital letters, Mexico’s buying plans without providing details.

All of this could leave some of those most upset over Trump’s approach, including some Republicans, questioning whether the turmoil of the last week was really worth it.

The whole episode also had a familiar feel: Trump has repeatedly threatened Mexico over immigration only to back off. First, he said he’d immediately close the southern border over migration. Then he abruptly pivoted in April to a new demand: that the Mexican government stop the flow of illegal drugs into the US within a year or face tariffs on automobiles.

First Published: Sun, June 09 2019. 00:04 IST