President Trump recently announced plans to impose a 5 percent duty on all Mexican goods beginning next week to pressure Mexico into doing more to stop the flow of Central American immigrants reaching the southern U.S. border.  To increase the pressure on Mexico City to satisfy his demands, Trump also intends to ratchet the duty gradually up to 25 percent by Oct. 1.

President Donald Trump’s plan to slap tariffs on Mexican goods may hurt both countries and weaken Mexico’s ability to help stop the flow of Central American immigrants seeking entry into the United States, top Mexican officials said Monday.  “The tariffs could be very costly for the U.S. economy, the consumers in the United States and the Mexican economy,” Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters during an early morning press conference at the Mexican Embassy.  Trump’s plan could also “cause financial and economic instability, which means that Mexico could reduce its capacity to address migration flows and to offer alternatives to the new migrants who have recently arrived in the country,” Ebrard added.

Ebrard stressed Mexico’s willingness to reach a mutually acceptable agreement with the United States.  He also highlighted the actions Mexico is already taking to deal with the stream of migrants crossing into its territory from the Northern Triangle region of Central America. Since December, Mexico has returned more than 80,000 migrants to their countries of origin, mainly in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, Ebrard said.

It also is on track this year to grant asylum to another 60,000 migrants, which would be a substantial increase over 2018, and is currently housing more than 27,600 migrants who are waiting for an asylum hearing in the United States, Ebrard said.  Ebrard argued for a cooperative solution with the United States and other international partners to address the root causes of migration out of Central America, referring to high rates of gang violence and a lack of jobs in the region.

He rejected the possibility that Mexico would assent to a “safe third country” asylum pact with the U.S. Under such an agreement, migrants would be required to seek asylum in Mexico if they passed through that country en route to the United States. The U.S. and Canada struck a similar agreement in 2002.  An asylum deal along those lines “would not be acceptable” to Mexico, Ebrard said, echoing previous statements from the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Meetings with U.S. officials are expected to continue over the next several days, leading to a summit at the White House on Wednesday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  The United States imported nearly $350 billion worth of goods from Mexico last year. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates a 5 percent tariff would impose a $17 billion tax on American businesses and consumers, while a 25 percent tariff would increase that to $86 billion.