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Trump suspends tariffs against Mexico after 11th-hour migration deal

Mexico has agreed to expand its policy of taking back migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as their asylum claims are processed.

Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

THE UNITED STATES and Mexico reached an 11th-hour deal last night to crack down on migration from Central America, with President Donald Trump relenting on threats to slap potentially devastating tariffs on the neighbouring country.

Under the deal Mexico agreed to expand its policy of taking back migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as the United States processes their asylum claims.

In turn, Mexico managed to avoid a proposal it had continually rejected – that it process asylum claims on its own soil before migrants try to reach the US.

President Trump confirmed the deal and the suspension of the 5% tariffs on all Mexican goods, which was due to start Monday:

Tweet by @Donald J. Trump Source: Donald J. Trump/Twitter

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who had planned to head to the border city of Tijuana to show solidarity ahead of the tariffs today, said that his trip would instead be to “celebrate.”

“Thanks to the support of all Mexicans, we were able to avoid tariffs on Mexican products exported to the United States,” tweeted Lopez Obrador.

Skirting economic blow 

Trump had vowed to raise tariffs as high as 25 percent unless Mexico – which exports $350 billion in goods each year to the United States – takes further action against migrants.

The tariffs would have clobbered Mexico’s economy, which is integrated with the United States and Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement, with experts warning of a recession and Fitch rating service already downgrading Mexico’s credit rating.

But the tariffs also drew unusually strong opposition from Trump’s fellow Republicans, especially lawmakers from farm states who worried about losing their second largest international market.

Irregular migration

Mexico pledged in a joint statement to take “unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration.”

“The governments of the United States and Mexico will work together to immediately implement a durable solution,” it said.

Mexico will deploy National Guard troops throughout the country, “giving priority to its southern border” with Guatemala. It will also target human smuggling and trafficking groups.

Making official a policy that has triggered opposition in both countries, the United States said it would systematically send back asylum seekers who cross the border, with Mexico offering them jobs, health care and education.

Thousands of asylum seekers have already been sent back to Mexico, prompting criticism from human rights campaigners that the migrants will lack due process and face new danger in border cities such as Ciudad Juarez.

Trump, who has declared a crisis at the border and earlier deployed troops, says that asylum seekers can too easily slip into the population while on US soil.

In a shift from the past when most undocumented immigrants were men seeking work, a majority of recent arrivals are families or unaccompanied children fleeing violence.

The number of migrants detained or blocked at the border surged to 144,000 in May, triple the level a year earlier.

- AFP © 2019 with reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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