Mexico's economy minister urged US President Donald Trump on Thursday not to mix the issue of illegal immigration into the two countries' trade relationship, after Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican cars.
"For the Mexican government, it is very important to keep migration issues and trade issues separate," Economy Minister Graciela Marquez Colin told a press conference.
Her comments came after Trump threatened to put tariffs on cars imported from Mexico if the United States' southern neighbour didn't do more to stop the flow of undocumented migrants and illegal drugs.
"The United States sometimes mixes the two issues. To us, it's very important to keep the ratification of the trade agreement (the newly negotiated United States-Mexico-Canada deal) on one track and migration-related issues on another," said Marquez.
"In terms of any new tariffs, we would have to discuss them in terms of a relationship between two trade partners who are in the process of modernizing a trade agreement," she added, referring to NAFTA, the existing trade agreement that the new USMCA deal seeks to update.
Trump called on Mexico earlier to "do what they can do very easily, apprehend these people coming in" -- referring to the hundreds of thousands of mostly Central American migrants who have arrived at the US-Mexican border in recent months.
He also gave Mexico one year to curb the flow of narcotics across the border, saying "we're going to put tariffs on them" if not.
However, he retreated from his threat to close the border this week, saying he would "tax the cars" first.
Mexico, which sends more than 80 per cent of its exports to the United States, has been nervously watching Trump's every tweet in recent days as he has alternately praised the government's efforts on curbing irregular migration and threatened it for failing to do enough.