President Donald Trump pushed Mexico — and his own party — to the brink when he threatened massive new tariffs over illegal immigration. And he now has a cross-border deal to show for it.
He also added another chapter in his now-familiar pattern on tariffs: threaten to go big, pull back at the last minute.
The move comes as Trump prepares for a potential high-stakes meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, at the end of this month. The abrupt U-turn on Mexico by Trump within a week, in return for what appear to be meaningful yet still relatively modest concessions, is likely to add to confusion in Beijing about Trump’s negotiating goals.
Trump announced late Friday that he wouldn’t impose a sliding scale of tariffs on goods from Mexico — from 5% to 25% over time — after that nation agreed to take a tougher stance on immigration, which was his goal all along. Trump on Saturday tweeted that Mexico also will buy “large quantities” of agricultural products, a stipulation that wasn’t included in a joint statement.
Mexico did commit to doing more — deploy National Guard troops to help curb illegal migration and agree to care for Central Americans seeking asylum in the U.S. indefinitely as their cases wind through the system.
American negotiators had been asking Mexico since the election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in July 2018 to do more to stop the flow of migrants. But it was only in the past week, under the threat of tariffs, that they felt Mexico had begun negotiating seriously, according to a U.S. official.
“Mexico successfully avoided the catastrophe of tariffs but will pay a heavy price,” said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “Potentially tens of thousands of refugee claimants will have to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed. Mexico will have to house, employ, educate and provide health care for them. This is a huge commitment” for the government.
Mexico has been gearing up to address the surge of migrants, with Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, saying Thursday the country was prepared to deploy about 6,000 guard troops. And the country already has been hosting asylum seekers while their cases were being processed.