US-Mexico talks: Agreement to avoid tariffs reached, says Trump

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Mexico has agreed to take “unprecedented steps” to help stem the flow of migrants to the US in order to avoid trade tariffs threatened by President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump revealed that a deal had been reached to suspend the tariffs “indefinitely” in a series of tweets.

He had threatened to implement import duties of 5%, rising every month, unless Mexico acted to curb migration.

The tariffs were due to come into effect on Monday.

The deal, also confirmed in a tweet by Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, comes at the end of three days of negotiations, which saw Washington demand a crackdown on Central American migrants.

Mr Trump caught members of his own party unaware when he announced the proposed tariffs last week.

He had declared an emergency on the US-Mexico border in February, saying it was necessary in order to tackle what he claimed was a crisis with thousands of undocumented migrants crossing the frontier.

What do we know about the deal?

In a joint declaration released by the US State Department, the two countries said Mexico would take “unprecedented” steps to curb irregular migration and human trafficking.

But it seems the US did not get one of its reported key demands that would have required Mexico to take in asylum seekers heading for the US and process their claims on its own soil.

Under the deal, Mexico agreed to:

  • Deploy its National Guard throughout the country from Monday, pledging up to 6,000 additional troops along Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala
  • Take “decisive action” in tackling human smuggling networks

The US also agreed to:

  • Expand its programme of sending asylum seekers back to Mexico while they awaited reviews of their claims. In return, the US would “work to accelerate” the adjudication process

Both countries pledged to “strengthen bilateral co-operation” over border security, including “co-ordinated actions” and information sharing.

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The declaration added that discussions would continue, and final terms be accepted and announced within 90 days.

Should Mexico’s actions “not have the expected results”, the agreement warned that additional measures could be taken, but did not specify what these would be.

Mr Ebrard told journalists that the deal was a “fair balance” between both nations.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the agreement,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at a separate press conference, according to AFP news agency.

“It is very, very significant and we very much appreciate the commitments that Mexico has made to help us on those important immigration issues”.

What tariffs had Trump threatened?

Under his proposal, duties would rise by 5% every month on goods including cars, beer, tequila, fruit and vegetables.

Mr Trump had warned these would rise each month until they hit 25% in October.

Mexico is currently one of the largest trading partners of the US, just behind China and Canada – two countries also locked in trade disputes with the US.

What’s the situation on the US-Mexico border?

The stakes were raised on Wednesday as US Customs and Border Protection announced that migrant arrests had surged in May to the highest level in more than a decade.

Border Patrol apprehended 132,887 migrants attempting to enter the US from Mexico in May, marking a 33% increase from the month before.

It said 84,542 were families and 11,507 unaccompanied children.

The arrests were the highest monthly total since Mr Trump took office.

Another 11,391 migrants were deemed “inadmissible” and turned away after arriving at US ports of entry, bringing the overall figure to 144,278.

“We are in a full-blown emergency, and I cannot say this stronger, the system is broken,” said acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders.

How do the numbers compare with previous years?

Official figures show illegal border crossings have been in decline since 2000.

In 2000, 1.6 million people were apprehended trying to cross the border illegally – that number was just under 400,000 in 2018.

In 2017, Mr Trump’s first year in office, the figures were the lowest they had been since 1971.

The decline was in large part due to a dip in the number of people coming from Mexico.

In the past two years, however, the number of arrests has been rising again, especially in recent months.

Last week, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador agreed to increase border security on his country’s northern border.

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