MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico and the United States may explore additional steps next month to restrict illegal immigration from Central America, with the threat of tariffs hanging over Mexico if it does not do enough to satisfy U.S. demands, officials said on Monday.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Brazil, Panama, and Guatemala may need to be brought in to help if a deal unveiled last week between Washington and Mexico fails to reduce the numbers of U.S.-bound migrants crossing Mexico.
The deal struck on Friday averted import tariffs on all Mexican goods, which U.S. President Donald Trump had vowed to impose unless Mexico did more to curb migration.
The Trump administration said on Monday it could still apply tariffs if it judged that Mexico had not done enough, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo telling reporters it expected to see results within four to six weeks.
The deal cut between the two nations last week means Mexico will expand a program under which migrants applying for asylum in the United States wait out the process in Mexico. Mexico also pledged to reinforce its southern border with Guatemala with 6,000 members of its National Guard militarized police.
A major sticking point in last week’s talks was a U.S. demand that Mexico be declared a “safe third country” for asylum seekers, requiring them to seek refuge in Mexico if they passed through the country on the way to the United States.
Mexico rejected that demand, though Ebrard revealed it would go back on the table if Mexico could not stem the flow of migrants heading to the U.S. border.
Mexico had no specific target for the reduction of migrant numbers, Ebrard said. Still, Martha Barcena, Mexico’s ambassador to Washington, told CBS News at the weekend there had been discussion of reducing the numbers to levels of around 2018.
Ebrard also said there was no agreement between the United States and Mexico to purchase more agricultural products under the accord, despite Trump saying over the weekend that Mexico had agreed to buy “large quantities” from U.S. farmers.
Ebrard said he thought Trump might be making a calculation based on Mexican agricultural imports when freed from the threat of tariffs.
Reporting by Dave Graham; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Lesley Wroughton, Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice in Washington and Frank Jack Daniel, Diego Ore and David Alire Garcia in Mexico City; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Peter Cooney.
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