Tuesday 22 October 2019

Trump is 'confident' Mexico will enforce new deal on immigration

US President Donald Trump. Photo: PA
US President Donald Trump. Photo: PA

Jonathan Landay

US President Donald Trump yesterday predicted Mexico would strongly enforce a new deal under which it agreed to expand a controversial asylum programme and boost security on its southern border to stem Central American migrants trying to reach the US.

The deal, announced last Friday after three days of negotiations in Washington, averted Trump's threatened imposition of 5pc import tariffs on all Mexican goods starting tomorrow.

"Mexico will try very hard, and if they do that, this will be a very successful agreement between the US and Mexico," Trump wrote in a tweet yesterday morning.

Trump also said Mexico would immediately begin buying "large quantities" of agricultural goods from US farmers, who have been hit hard by his trade war with China and risked a new blow from Mexican retaliation if Trump had imposed tariffs.

It was not immediately clear, however, whether Mexico made such a pledge. There was no mention of expanded Mexican purchases of US agricultural products in the joint US-Mexican declaration outlining the immigration deal.

Trump has made stemming illegal immigration a signature issue of his presidency. He has been frustrated by a surge through Mexico of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the US.

Under the new deal, Mexico agreed to the immediate expansion along the entire border of a programme under which the United States returns asylum-seeking migrants to Mexico to await adjudication of their cases.

The programme, commonly known as Remain in Mexico, has been operating since January in the border cities of Tijuana, Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez. The American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups are pursuing a legal challenge to the programme, which has returned to Mexico more than 10,390 people, mostly Central Americans.

Mexico also agreed to take stronger measures to stem illegal immigration to the United States, including deploying militarised National Guard forces on its southern border from tomorrow.

US border officers detained more than 132,000 people crossing from Mexico in May, the highest level since 2006. Trump threatened to keep raising import duties on Mexican goods up to 25pc unless Mexico acted to stem what he has called an "invasion".

But the threat angered business groups and even some Republican allies, who warned that a trade fight with Mexico would hurt the US economy and lobbied Trump's administration to back down.

The deal announced last Friday did not include a US demand that Mexico accept a "safe third country" designation that would have forced it to permanently take in most Central American asylum seekers.

Elsewhere on the United States tariff front, rising trade tensions between the US and China have sparked worries about the 17 rare earth minerals needed for hi-tech products like robotics, drones and electric cars. China recently raised tariffs to 25pc on rare earth exports to the US and has threatened to halt exports altogether after the Trump administration raised tariffs on Chinese products and blacklisted telecommunications giant Huawei.

The US is a major importer of rare earth minerals, looking to China for 80pc of what it buys from other countries. China last year produced some 120,000 metric tonnes of rare earths, while the US produced 15,000 metric tonnes.

© Associated Press

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