The United States and Mexico have reached an agreement on migration, U.S. President Donald Trump announced late Friday, with the punishing tariffs he had been threatening “indefinitely suspended.”
“I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico. The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border. This is being done to greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States.”
Trump’s announcement came at the end of three days of negotiations at the State Department, with Washington demanding a tough crackdown on Central American migrants after hundreds of thousands crossed Mexico to enter the United States in recent months.
U.S. border officers apprehended more than 132,000 people crossing from Mexico in May, triple the level of a year earlier and the highest monthly level since 2006.
The U.S. president had planned to hit all Mexican imports with a 5 percent tariff starting on Monday — and rising over the coming months to as high as 25 percent — a move which could have clobbered Mexico’s economy.
“Thanks to the support of all Mexicans, we were able to avoid tariffs on Mexican products exported to the United States,” Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Twitter, adding that he would travel Saturday to the border city of Tijuana to “celebrate.”
The decision was also welcomed by Republicans and other Americans who warned the tariffs would damage the American economy, hurt job growth and delay or altogether scuttle a trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, which still needs lawmaker ratification. The tariffs also had drawn unusually strong opposition from Trump’s fellow Republicans, especially lawmakers from farm states who worried about losing the second-largest international market.
“Mexico came through,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican opposed to the tariffs, in a tweet soon after Trump’s announcement.
Mexico had prepared a list of possible retaliatory tariffs targeting products from agricultural and industrial states regarded as Trump’s electoral base, a tactic China has also used with an eye toward the president’s 2020 re-election bid.
The deal came after negotiators met for more than 12 hours on Friday, with Mexico pledging “unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration,” the two sides said in a joint statement.
“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.
Meanwhile the United States said it would start sending asylum-seekers back to Mexico to wait as their applications were being processed.
“The United States commits to work to accelerate the adjudication of asylum claims and to conclude removal proceedings as expeditiously as possible,” the statement said.
The changes, in part, continue steps the Trump administration was already taking. The U.S. announced in December that it would make some asylum-seekers wait in Mexico while their cases were being proceeded — a begrudging agreement with Mexico that has taken months to scale and that has been plagued with glitches, including wrong court dates, travel problems and issues with lawyers reaching their clients.
Homeland Security officials have been ramping up slowly, and were already working to spread the program along the border before the latest blowup. About 10,000 people have been returned to Mexico to wait out the processing of their immigration cases since the program began Jan. 29. More than 100,000 migrants are currently crossing the U.S. border each month, but not everyone claims asylum and migrants can wait an entire year before making a claim.
The Trump administration has demanded Mexico take tough action to halt the flow of migrants fleeing chronic poverty and violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, who are hoping to request asylum in the United States.
In recent months the migrant groups have been dominated by families with children.
Trump had announced last week that, starting from June 10, a 5 percent tariff would be applied to all goods from export-dependent Mexico, rising by 5 percentage points each month to a high of 25 percent, until U.S. demands on migrant controls were satisfied.
The move took direct aim at Mexico’s economy, which is heavily dependent on trade with the United States. Mexico is the second-biggest source of U.S. imports.
The United States imports about $350 billion each year in goods from Mexico including $128 billion in automobiles, auto parts and engines, and $26 billion in agricultural products and processed foods.