The US and Mexico have reached an agreement to stave off import tariffs on Mexican goods, officials confirmed on Friday evening.
President Trump had threatened to impose 5% import tariffs on all Mexican goods if the country did not agree to new measures to stem migration across the US-Mexico border. The tariffs were set to go in effect on Monday, but the president tweeted late on Friday that both governments had reached a deal and the tariffs had been “indefinitely suspended”.
“Thanks to the support of all Mexicans, the imposition of tariffs on Mexican products exported to the USA has been avoided,” the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, tweeted.
In a joint declaration both countries said Mexico agreed to immediately expand along the entire border a program that sends migrants seeking asylum in the United States to Mexico while they await adjudication of their cases.
The country also agreed to increase enforcement to contain the flow of migrants headed to the US, including by deploying national guard troops to its southern border and cracking down on human smuggling organizations, the declaration said.
Friday’s agreement did not include the Trump administration’s proposal to return asylum seekers from Guatemala to Mexico, and Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers to Guatemala, Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said.
“I think it’s a fair balance they had more drastic measures and proposals at the start and we reached some middle point,” he said, adding the the national guard deployment would start on Monday.
Ebrard also highlighted US support in the agreement for a Mexican proposal to jointly address underlying causes of migration from Central America.
The asylum program to be expanded is commonly known as Remain in Mexico, and currently operates in the border cities of Tijuana, Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez.
Under the new deal, returned asylum seekers will spend long periods in Mexican cities such as Reynosa on the Texas border, where drug cartels frequently kidnap migrants.
The program was challenged in court earlier this year by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other rights groups which say it puts asylum seekers in danger and violates US and international law.
While a federal judge ruled to halt the policy, a US appeals court overturned the decision, allowing the policy to continue as the legal challenge is ongoing. Between January and 5 June, 10,393 mostly Central Americans have been sent back to Mexico under the program.
Mexico and US officials had been negotiating for three days in Washington DC, and businesses were bracing for the Monday deadline. A tax on all Mexican goods, which would increase every month up to 25% under Trump’s plan, would have had enormous economic implications for both countries. Americans bought $378bn worth of Mexican imports last year, led by cars and auto parts.
Earlier on Friday, companies were racing to ship as many goods as possibleout of Mexico in anticipation of the tariffs, including cars, construction materials and appliances.
Mexican-made tiles were piling up on the street next to a warehouse in New Mexico, and hundreds of semi-trailers carrying medical devices, televisions and cars idled in line at a truck crossing in Tijuana.
The two countries will continue discussions, to be completed in 90 days, on further steps, according to the declaration.
Trump has embraced tariffs as a political tool to force countries to comply with his demands, in this case on his signature issue of immigration. But he had faced bipartisan opposition toward his tariff plan in the US earlier in the week, including from Republican senators. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, had said the tariffs would be “punishing” for both the US and Mexico.
The president had kept up the threats while visiting Ireland earlier in the week, saying there had not been “nearly enough” progress during negotiations.
The president has repeatedly warned of an “invasion” and criminal threats at the border, with escalating rhetoric as he braces for the 2020 re-election campaign.
Agents made 132,887 arrests in May, the first time that detentions have increased past 100,000 since April 2007, and the highest monthly total since Trump took office. Of those detained, 11,507 were unaccompanied children.