Mexican diplomats warned Monday that the Trump administration’s threat to impose tariffs on all Mexican imports to the U.S. until the country does more to control the flow of illegal immigrants could have the opposite effect of exacerbating the situation at the southern border.
The move may well be “counterproductive,” said Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Martha Barcena during emergency talks in Washington, D.C. on Monday. “Without Mexico’s efforts, an additional quarter million migrants could arrive at the U.S. border in 2019.”
Trump’s announcement, made at the end of last month on Twitter, called for a 5 percent tariff on all products from Mexico to take effect on June 10 and continue until “the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied.” The U.S. will progressively raise tariffs to 25 percent by October if Mexico refuses to take action on immigration, according to the White House.
“Slapping tariffs, along with a decision to cancel aid programs to the northern Central American countries, could have a counterproductive effect and would not reduce migrations flows,” Mexican foreign-affairs secretary Marcelo Ebrard said. “The tariffs could be very costly for the U.S. economy, for consumers in the United States, and the Mexican economy.”
Mexico’s agriculture secretary, Víctor Manuel Villalobos, said a 5 percent tariff on Mexican products headed to the U.S. would cut such trade by $1.4 billion annually.
Mexico is “willing to continue to work with the U.S. to address issues of common concern,” Ebrard said. “We believe our countries can reach a deal on how to face a matter on which our approaches are different.”
The officials also highlighted Mexico’s current efforts to control illegal immigration to the U.S., with Barcena noting that the country has deported more than 80,000 migrants back to their countries of origin. Mexico is also allowing nearly 9,000 migrants to stay in Mexico as they await asylum hearings in the U.S., and hosting another 18,000 migrants who plan to apply for asylum as soon as availability allows.
“There is a clear limit to what we can negotiate,” Barcena said. “And that limit is Mexican dignity.”
“They’ve been ‘talking’ for 25 years. We want action, not talk,” Trump said Sunday on Twitter of the upcoming talks. “They could solve the Border Crisis in one day if they so desired. Otherwise, our companies and jobs are coming back to the USA!”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to meet with the Mexican officials Wednesday.