The US warned Mexico Thursday it needed to make more concessions on slowing migration to avoid President Donald Trump’s threatened tariffs, as the Mexican leader announced he would visit the border to “defend our dignity.”
Speaking as the two neighbors opened a tense day of talks — which Trump has vowed will be the last — White House communications chief Mercedes Schlapp said Mexico’s proposals so far to slow the surge of Central Americans crossing the border were “simply not enough.”
“Looks like we’re moving toward the path of tariffs,” she said on Fox News.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador meanwhile announced he would travel to the border city of Tijuana Saturday for what he described as a “unity rally to defend Mexico’s dignity and promote our friendship with the people of the United States.”
That is two days before Trump’s threatened tariffs on Mexican goods would take effect — starting at five percent and rising incrementally to 25 percent by October if Mexico does not meet his expectations.
Lopez Obrador told a news conference that “all options” are under review in the event Trump goes ahead with the tariffs.
“But our posture is to preserve, above all, the friendship with the people of the United States,” said the anti-establishment leftist.
“I am optimistic that an agreement will be reached.”
In Washington, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said he saw progress after more than two hours of talks at the State Department.
“Yes, I think we have advances today,” he told reporters during a break.
– 25% tariffs ‘catastrophic’ –
Economic analysts say the impact of a five-percent tariff would likely be absorbed by losses in the Mexican peso, which has already plummeted against the dollar since Trump announced his tariff plan a week ago.
But a 10-percent tariff or higher would be painful for both countries.
Mexico sends nearly 80 percent of its exports to the United States. It is also the largest US trading partner so far this year, thanks mainly to Trump’s trade war with China, which previously held the top spot.
Mexico would likely impose retaliatory tariffs, inflicting “almost immediate” pain on American consumers, said Duncan Wood, head of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington.
“You identify products that are important to the most sensitive Republican districts and hope to inflict pain upon the Republican party and the president” as he heads into his campaign for re-election in November 2020, said Wood.
If the tariffs rise to 25 percent, he added, the impact could be “catastrophic,” and spread worldwide.
“It would have a recessionary impact not just on the Mexican economy but the US economy,” he said.
“Mexico is the world’s 13th-largest economy and one of the world’s largest emerging economies. If it was to go into crisis … there would be a spillover onto emerging markets around the world.”
– Migrant surge –
Mexican authorities responded to one key US demand Wednesday by blocking the latest US-bound caravan of undocumented migrants as it entered Mexico from Guatemala.
Soldiers and police halted hundreds of migrants in the group about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the Guatemalan border.
About 420 migrants were taken to a detention center, according to immigration authorities. But many others may have fled, as police initially reported some 1,200 people in the caravan — mainly from Honduras.
US officials have insisted that Mexico halt the movement of migrants across its southern border, take action against bus lines moving them north, and overhaul its laws to force migrants to apply for asylum there rather than the United States.
The numbers of migrants reaching the US-Mexican border has surged, with 144,000 detained or blocked by US authorities in May, up 32 percent from April.
Lopez Obrador has stressed Mexico’s willingness to work with the Americans on the problem.
But Trump has appeared keen to move ahead with tariffs, despite unusually vocal opposition from Republican lawmakers.
He brushed off fears of a mutually damaging trade war.
“The higher the Tariffs go, the higher the number of companies that will move back to the USA!” he tweeted Wednesday.
Trump’s lawyers slammed by CNN’s Toobin for ‘parade of lies’ about Biden’s involvement in Ukraine
On CNN Monday, chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin argued that the White House team's defense in the impeachment trial was disastrously bad.
"I thought Attorney General [Pam] Bondi did an effective job of showing how sleazy the hiring of Hunter Biden was," acknowledged Toobin. However, he added "her discussion, and Eric Herschmann's discussion, of the role of Joe Biden, vice president at the time, was a parade of lies. Just outrageously false in every fact, in every insinuation ... this idea that he engineered the fire firing of [Ukrainian prosecutor] Viktor Shokin to get his son in. Since Joe Biden is the one who is running for president, that seems to be enormously important."
Republicans claim Democrats leaked John Bolton’s book that was given to the White House — then quickly back down
In a bizarre twist, Republicans are blaming Democrats for releasing information included in John Bolton's.
Speaking in a line of Republicans, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) explained that it was clear Democrats were part of some kind of conspiracy to turn senators against the speedy trial the White House wanted. With the revelation that Bolton confirmed President Donald Trump was indeed trying to bribe Ukraine, a very few Republican senators are more willing to call him as a witness.
The problem, of course, with Meadows' accusations is that the manuscript was never sent to Democrats. According to the New York Times report, Bolton sent the book to the White House for security checks to ensure nothing he put in the book was classified.
Ken Starr defends Trump as Bolton revelations roil trial
Pressure mounted on Republicans on Monday to call former national security advisor John Bolton as a witness at Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial following explosive new revelations about the US president's dealings with Ukraine.
As Clinton impeachment investigator Ken Starr resumed the White House defense of Trump on the Senate floor, at least three Republican senators indicated they would favor hearing testimony from the 71-year-old Bolton.
According to The New York Times, Bolton, in a draft of his upcoming book, says that Trump told him in August that he wanted to freeze military aid to Ukraine until Kiev opened an investigation into his potential November election rival Joe Biden.