US, Mexico begin talks aimed at avoiding tariffs | News | DW | 03.06.2019
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US, Mexico begin talks aimed at avoiding tariffs

US President Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on Mexico to put pressure on the country to keep migrants from crossing into the US. Mexico has said the tariffs would only make the migration problem worse.

US and Mexican officials began talks on Monday in Washington to try and avert the threat of US tariffs on Mexican goods that would kick in on June 10

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that he was confident a deal to avoid tariffs would come out of the talks that could last the whole week.

The country's foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said in Washington that Mexican officials would be presenting their US counterparts with documents detailing the impact of US-imposed tariffs on both countries.

Ebrard also told reporters that Mexico would reject a US idea to designate Mexico as a "safe third country" if it is brought up during this week's talks. 

"An agreement about a safe third country would not be acceptable for Mexico," Ebrard said. "They have not yet proposed it to me. But it would not be acceptable and they know it."

Last month, US President Donald Trump said the US would impose a 5% tariff as part of a strategy to force Mexico to do more to secure the country's borders and keep migrants from crossing into the US. 

"Tariffs, along with the decision to cancel aid programs to the northern Central American countries, could have a counterproductive effect and would not reduce migration flows," the Mexican ambassador to the US, Martha Barcena, said. 

Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters that talks had the potential to be "extremely fruitful," while dismissing criticism that tariffs would adversely affect the US economy.

"The tariffs on Mexico are a very big deal for the Mexican economy and a small deal for the US economy," Hassett told the AFP news agency.

During his state visit to London on Monday, Trump tweeted that Mexico should "immediately" stop flows of migrants and drugs, and could do so "if they want." 

'Deadly serious'

Trump has issued similar tariff threats in the past only to scale back at the last minute. 

However, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Fox News on Sunday that the president was "deadly serious" about imposing tariffs, but did not give any detail on how this would get Mexico to better secure its border. 

Read more: Wall Street slumps over Trump's Mexico tariffs

"There's no specific target, there's no specific percentage, but things have to get better," Mulvaney said.

Economists and business groups have warned that tariffs would impair trade and increase the costs of many Mexican goods that US consumers enjoy. The US is Mexico's top export partner, with an estimated $344.9 billion (€307 billion) in exports in 2018. 

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wmr/rt (AP, Reuters)

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