U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday dangled renewing his tariff threat on Mexico if the U.S. ally doesn’t co-operate on border issues, as Democratic challengers criticized a deal reached to avert the tariffs as overblown.
In a series of tweets sent before departing for his golf club in Virginia, Trump defended the deal heading off the 5 per cent tax on all Mexican goods that he had threatened to impose Monday, but warned Mexico that, “if for some unknown reason” co-operation fails, “we can always go back to our previous, very profitable, position of Tariffs.”
Still, he said he didn’t believe that would be necessary.
The tweets came amid questions about just how much of the deal — announced with great fanfare Friday — was really new. It included a commitment from Mexico, for instance, to deploy its new National Guard to the country’s southern border with Guatemala. Mexico, however, had already intended to do that before Trump’s latest threat and had made that clear to U.S. officials.
The U.S. also hailed Mexico’s agreement to embrace the expansion of a program implemented earlier this year under which some asylum-seekers are returned to Mexico as they wait out their cases. But U.S. officials had already been working to expand the program, which has already led to the return of about 10,000 to Mexico, without Mexico’s public embrace.
“The president has completely overblown what he reports to have achieved. These are agreements that Mexico had already made, in some cases months ago,” said Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, speaking on ABC’s “This Week.” “They might have accelerated the time table, but by and large the president achieved nothing except to jeopardize the most important trading relationship that the United States of America has.”
Another 2020 candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, chastised Trump for using tariffs as a threat and operating a “trade policy based on tweets.”
“I think what the world is tired of and what I am tired of is a president who consistently goes to war, verbal war with our allies, whether it is Mexico, whether it is Canada,” he said.
But acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, speaking on “Fox News Sunday” insisted “all of it is new,” including the agreement to dispatch around 6,000 National Guard troops _ a move Mexico has described as an “acceleration.”
“This is the first time we’ve heard anything like this kind of number of law enforcement being deployed in Mexico to address migration, not just at the southern border but also on the transportation routes to the northern border and in co-ordinated patrols in key areas along our southwest border,” he said, adding that “people can disagree with the tactics” but that “Mexico came to the table with real proposals” that will be effective, if implemented.
Trump echoed the same in his tweets, insisting the deal was being misrepresented.
“We have been trying to get some of these Border Actions for a long time, as have other administrations, but were not able to get them, or get them in full, until our signed agreement with Mexico,” he wrote. “Mexico was not being co-operative on the Border in things we had, or didn’t have, and now I have full confidence, especially after speaking to their President yesterday, that they will be very co-operative and want to get the job properly done.”
He also teased the idea that more was agreed to than was announced Friday, saying that “some things” and “one in particular” that had been left out of the release but would be “announced at the appropriate time.”
He could have been referring to discussion about Mexico becoming a “safe third country,” which would make it harder for asylum-seekers who pass through the country to claim refuge in the U.S. The idea, which Mexico has long opposed, was discussed during negotiations. But Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard has said Mexico did not agree to it.
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