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Mexico seeks dialogue over tariff threat

June 1, 2019

Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he did not want a confrontation with the United States. Some 80 percent of the Mexico's exports are sent to the US and would be hit hard by fresh tariffs.

Mexico's president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
Image: picture-alliance/A. Nava

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday that Mexico would not panic over Donald Trump's threat to punish Mexico with 5% tariffs on its goods entering the United States and dispatched a diplomatic delegation to Washington to discuss the plans.

The US president said on Thursday that the punitive measure would be imposed if Mexico did not do more to stop illegal border crossings into the US.

The move came the same day Mexico announced it would begin the process of ratifying the USMCA free trade deal and less than two weeks after it successfully negotiated the lifting of US steel and aluminum tariffs.

In a letter posted on his Twitter account, Lopez Obrador said he would seek a diplomatic solution. "Right away, I must express that I don't want confrontation," the Mexican president said in a letter directed at Trump.

"You also know that we are fulfilling our responsibility," Lopez Obrador said, of stemming the flow of migrants "in the best way possible and without violating human rights."

"I propose to deepen our dialogue and to find core solutions to the migration problem," he stressed.

Read more: Mexico's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador marks first 100 days in office

"I tell all Mexicans to have faith, we will overcome this attitude of the US government, they will make rectifications because the Mexican people don't deserve to be treated in the way being attempted," Lopez Obrador told reporters at a morning news conference.

Mexican officials also signaled on Friday that if Washington follows through with the tariff plan, Mexico would respond in kind and likely target regions with high concentrations of Trump voters.

Mexican economy rattled

The tariff increase would hit a wide range of Mexico's exports, including berries, avocados, automobiles, machinery and household appliances. Approximately 80% of the country's exports are sent to the US.

Trump's announcement caused the Mexican peso to fall more than 3% against the US dollar, while US stocks also tumbled on Wall Street.

Spanish bank BBVA warned that the 5% tariffs would downgrade their 2019 forecast for Mexico's GDP growth from 1.4% to under 1%. "A recession cannot be ruled out," the bank said in a statement.

Read more: US-Mexico relations: Will AMLO bring a new era?

As a result, Mexican business leaders rallied behind President Lopez Obrador and condemned the US plan.

"The attitude of the (US) president doesn't display the solidarity that has prevailed between friendly nations," Mexico City's Chamber of Commerce said in a statement, adding that the organization trusted Lopez Obrador's strategy of reaching "a respectful dialogue" to address the crisis.

jcg/amp (EFE, AP, Reuters)

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