MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Mexico’s president said Friday, May 31, the country is “doing our job” to stop the flow of undocumented migrants to the United States, warning Donald Trump that hitting his neighbor with tariffs would be a lose-lose game.
However, the US president only doubled down on his threat to impose tariffs of up to 25% on all imported Mexican goods, saying “Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades” in a new flurry of tweets.
In a 7:00 am press conference, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador repeated his call for calm and dialogue in response to Trump’s explosive announcement Thursday night, May 30, that the US would impose tariffs on Mexican goods “until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied.”
Trump said the tariffs would start at 5% on June 10, then rise by 5 percentage points per month to a level of 25% from October – an announcement that sent global markets and the Mexican peso plunging.
The impact would be devastating for Mexico, which sends 80% of its exports to the US. But Lopez Obrador reminded his American counterpart the tariffs would also take a heavy toll on the United States, whose largest trading partner so far this year is Mexico – thanks mainly to Trump’s trade war with China.
“No good can come of coercive measures…. These (tariffs) would not be good for Mexicans, but they would not be good for Americans either,” said Lopez Obrador.
“We have to act prudently…. We are going to insist very much on dialogue,” he added, saying he had already sent a delegation to Washington for talks, led by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.
Lopez Obrador refrained from mentioning possible retaliatory measures. But Mexico’s top diplomat for North America said Thursday the country would respond “vigorously” if Trump followed through.
Trump only stepped up his Twitter attacks.
“Mexico must take back their country from the drug lords and cartels. The Tariff is about stopping drugs as well as illegals!” he tweeted.
“90% of the Drugs coming into the United States come through Mexico & our Southern Border…. This has gone on for many years & nothing has been done about it. We have a 100 Billion Dollar Trade Deficit with Mexico. It’s time!”
The number of migrants apprehended at the US-Mexican border has topped 100,000 a month in recent months. (READ: Trump at Mexico border: the U.S. is ‘full’)
That included a new record of 58,474 people who crossed in family groups in April, and a single group of 1,036 people that particularly outraged Trump when it crossed into El Paso, Texas, this week.
They are mostly people fleeing poverty and violence in Central America to ask for asylum once they reach US soil.
Trump has consistently demonized the migrants as criminals and gang members, and warned that illegal drugs are flowing across the border.
Lopez Obrador insisted his government is working to slow the migrant flow.
“We are doing our job, without violating (migrants’) human rights,” said the left-wing populist, who has sought to maintain cordial relations with Trump despite the Republican billionaire’s frequent anti-Mexican outbursts.
He said his foreign minister would present officials in Washington with data showing that Mexico is taking steps “like never before” to send migrants back to their home countries or help them to stay and work in Mexico.
However, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders indicated Trump was unlikely to budge, saying the administration has “thought this through.”
Global markets slumped over the latest trade war threat.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both fell 1.3% at opening. In Tokyo, shares closed down 1.6%, with losses led by automakers with operations in Mexico. European markets were also hit.
The Mexican peso lost 2.8% against the dollar.
The announcement came the same day Trump started the process of ratifying the new North American trade pact with Mexico and Canada, the USMCA – an agreement that now may be under threat.
Even some Republican allies warned Trump not to damage a vital trade relationship over border issues.
“Trade policy and border security are separate issues,” Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in comments reported by The Washington Post.
“This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent. Following through on this threat would seriously jeopardize passage of USMCA.”
Trump pledged in his 2016 election campaign to crack down hard on illegal immigration, but the numbers of migrants have steadily climbed.
Efforts at immigration reform have stalled in Congress, and Trump has been stymied by courts on some of the measures his administration has attempted.
Tapping his executive powers against a resistant Congress, Trump has also taken money from the military budget to construct sections of wall along the lengthy frontier, despite his campaign pledge that Mexico would pay for the barrier. – Rappler.com