Trump says US, Mexico reach agreement to prevent tariffs

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A street vendor is seen among trucks waiting in queue for border customs control, to cross into the U.S., at the Otay border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico June 7, 2019. (REUTERS)
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An official of the National Migration Institute (INM) checks a passenger's ID at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Tapachula, in Chiapas state, Mexico June 7, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 June 2019
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Trump says US, Mexico reach agreement to prevent tariffs

  • Trump has nonetheless embraced tariffs as a political tool he can use to force countries to comply with his demands — in this case on his signature issue of immigration

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump announced that he had suspended plans to impose tariffs on Mexico, tweeting that the country “has agreed to take strong measures” to stem the flow of Central American migrants into the United States. But the deal the two neighbors agreed to falls short of some of the dramatic overhauls the US had pushed for.
A “US-Mexico Joint Declaration” released by the State Department late Friday said the US “will immediately expand the implementation” of a program that returns asylum-seekers who cross the southern border to Mexico while their claims are adjudicated. Mexico will “offer jobs, health care and education” to those people, the agreement stated.
Mexico has also agreed, it said, to take “unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration,” including the deployment of the Mexican National Guard throughout the country, especially on its southern border with Guatemala. And Mexico is taking “decisive action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as their illicit financial and transportation networks,” the State Department said.
The move puts to an end — for now — a threat that had sparked dire warnings from members of Trump’s own party, who warned the tariffs would damage the economy, drive up prices for consumers and imperil an updated North American trade pact. Trump’s Friday night tweet marked a sharp reversal from earlier in the day, when his spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters: “Our position has not changed. The tariffs are going forward as of Monday.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador tweeted, “Thanks to the support of all Mexicans, the imposition of tariffs on Mexican products exported to the USA has been avoided.” He called for a gathering to celebrate in Tijuana Saturday.
The changes, in part, continue steps the Trump administration was already taking. The US announced in December that it would make some asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases were being proceeded — a begrudging agreement with Mexico that has taken months to scale and that has been plagued with glitches, including wrong court dates, travel problems and issues with lawyers reaching their clients.
Homeland Security officials have been ramping up slowly, and were already working to spread the program along the border before the latest blowup. About 10,000 people have been returned to Mexico to wait out the processing of their immigration cases since the program began Jan. 29. More than 100,000 migrants are currently crossing the US border each month, but not everyone claims asylum and migrants can wait an entire year before making a claim.
Any sizable increase may also be difficult to achieve. At the San Ysidro crossing alone, Mexico had been prepared to accept up to 120 asylum seekers per week, but for the first six weeks only 40 people per week were returned.
Trump had announced the tariff plan last week, declaring in a tweet that, on June 10, the US would “impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP.” US officials had laid out steps Mexico could take to prevent the tariffs, but many had doubts that even those steps would be enough to satisfy Trump on illegal immigration, a signature issue of his presidency and one that he sees as crucial to his 2020 re-election campaign.
After returning from Europe Friday, though, Trump tweeted, “I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico.” He wrote that the “Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the US on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended.”
He said Mexico has agreed to work to “stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border” and said those steps would “greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States.”
The 5% 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 $378 billion worth of Mexican imports last year, led by cars and auto parts. Many members of Trump’s Republican Party and business allies had urged him to reconsider — or at least postpone actually implementing the tariffs as talks continue — citing the potential harm to American consumers and manufactures.
From the moment Trump announced the tariff threat, observers wondered whether he would pull the trigger, noting his habit of creating problems and then claiming credit when he rushes in to solve them.
In late March, Trump threatened to shut the entire US-Mexico border if Mexico didn’t immediately halt illegal immigration. Just a few days later, he backed off that threat, saying he was pleased with steps Mexico had taken. It was unclear, however, what — if anything — Mexico had changed.
US and Mexican officials met for more than 10 hours Friday during a third day of talks at the US State Department trying to hash out a deal that would satisfy Trump’s demand that Mexico dramatically increase its efforts to crack down on migrants.
The talks had been focused, in part, on attempting to reach a compromise on changes that would make it harder for migrants who pass through Mexico from other countries to claim asylum in the US, those monitoring the situation said. Mexico has long opposed such a change but appeared open to considering a potential compromise that could include exceptions or waivers for different types of cases. The joint declaration, however makes no mention of the issue.
Leaving the State Department Friday night, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said he thought the deal struck “a fair balance” because the US “had more drastic proposals and measures at the start.”
But Leticia Calderón Cheluis, a migration expert at the Mora Institute in Mexico City, said the agreement is essentially a series of compromises solely by Mexico, which she said committed to “a double clamp at both borders.”
Trump in recent months has embraced tariffs as a political tool he can use to force countries to comply with his demands — in this case on his signature issue of immigration. Beyond Trump and several White House advisers, though, few in his administration had believed the tariffs were a good idea, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations. Those people had worried about the negative economic consequences for Americans and argued that tariffs — which would likely spark retaliatory taxes on US exports — would also hurt the administration politically.
Republicans in Congress had also warned the White House that they were ready to stand up to the president to try to block his tariffs, which they worried would spike costs to US consumers, harm the economy and imperil a major pending US-Mexico-Canada trade deal .
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., greeted Friday night’s news with sarcasm. “This is a historic night!” he tweeted. “Now that that problem is solved, I’m sure we won’t be hearing any more about it in the future.”
 


No-deal Brexit looms as race for new British PM wraps up

Updated 17 July 2019
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No-deal Brexit looms as race for new British PM wraps up

  • Many lawmakers, business community fear dire economic outcome
  • A majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons are opposed to a no-deal Brexit

LONDON: The battle to become Britain's next prime minister enters the home straight on Wednesday with both candidates hardening their positions on Brexit, putting the future government on a collision course with Brussels.
Ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson, the favourite to replace Theresa May, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, are now both referring to Britain's departure with no overall deal in place as a realistic prospect.
The business community and many lawmakers fear dire economic consequences from a no-deal Brexit, which would lead to immediate trade tariffs for some sectors including the automotive industry.
Johnson and Hunt are taking part in a final question-and-answer session later on Wednesday before the result of the vote by Conservative Party members is announced next Tuesday.
The new party leader will be confirmed as prime minister by Queen Elizabeth II on the following day.
Britain has twice delayed its scheduled departure from the European Union after 46 years of membership as May tried and failed to get her deal with Brussels through parliament.
The two candidates vying to replace her have vowed to scrap a "backstop" provision in the agreement that Brussels insisted upon to keep the Irish border open.
Their latest attacks on the measure during a debate on Monday prompted a plunge in the value of the British pound.
The currency fell again Wednesday to its lowest level against the US dollar in over two years.
"The tougher stance from both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt in terms of their rhetoric on Brexit is clearly weighing on the pound," said market analyst Neil Wilson.
"Make no mistake, this decline in the pound is down to traders pricing in a higher chance of a no-deal exit."
The backstop has proved a key stumbling block in the Brexit process.
The measure would keep open the post-Brexit border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member the Republic of Ireland whatever the outcome of negotiations over the future relationship between London and Brussels.
Johnson announced early in his campaign that he would not sign up to it and would pursue a no-deal Brexit if required, leading his opponent to follow suit.
However, European leaders have been adamant that the backstop must remain a part of any divorce deal, raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who will become European Commission president in November, said the draft withdrawal agreement provided "certainty".
She also broached a possible further delay to Britain's departure, saying: "I stand ready for a further extension of the withdrawal date, should more time be required for a good reason."
Johnson has pledged that under his leadership, Britain will leave "do or die" on the current deadline of October 31.
A majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, but attempts to pass legislation blocking the scenario have failed.
Reports this week suggested Johnson is considering plans to end the current session of parliament in early October, leaving MPs powerless.
Finance Minister Philip Hammond said Wednesday it was "terrifying" that some Brexit supporters thought that no deal would leave Britain better off.
And in a speech in London, May said the "best route" for Britain was to leave with a deal.
Delivering her last major address, she railed against the trend towards "absolutism" in Britain and abroad, and urged her successor to compromise.
"Whatever path we take must be sustainable for the long term, so that delivering Brexit brings our country back together. That has to mean some kind of compromise," she said.