MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Friday he is confident the United States will desist from its threat to impose tariffs on the Aztec nation.
US President Donald Trump said Thursday night the US will impose escalating tariffs on Mexico unless it takes aggressive steps to stop the flow of illegal migrants from Central America.
“I say to all Mexicans that they need to trust, that we’re going to overcome this attitude of the United States government and that they’ll change course, because Mexico doesn’t deserve to be treated” in this manner, Lopez Obrador said at his daily news conference at the National Palace.
He reiterated that Mexico will not fall into any provocation and will not take any “desperate” response to a potential US move that would have consequences for Mexico’s economy.
Trump announced Thursday on Twitter that he will impose a 5 percent tariff starting June 10 on all Mexican imports unless the neighboring country halts the northward flow of US-bound undocumented migrants.
“The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied,” the US president added.
A subsequent statement by the White House laid out a calendar of potential escalating tariffs.
“If the crisis persists ... the Tariffs will be raised to 10 percent on July 1, 2019. Tariffs will be increased to 15 percent on August 1, 2019, to 20 percent on September 1, 2019, and to 25 percent on October 1, 2019.”
In response, Lopez Obrador sent a letter to Trump calling for dialogue and not confrontation and saying he does not believe in the precept of an “eye for an eye.”
He also urged his US counterpart not to transform the US from “the country of fraternity for the world’s migrants into a ghetto, a closed space, where migrants are stigmatized, mistreated, persecuted, expelled and the right for justice is canceled.”
On Friday, Lopez Obrador said he had received no indication that Trump or his team had responded to the letter.
Trump, for his part, took up the issue once again Friday on Twitter.
“Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades. Because of the Dems, our Immigration Laws are BAD. Mexico makes a FORTUNE from the U.S., have for decades, they can easily fix this problem. Time for them to finally do what must be done!” the US president said.
Lopez Obrador added in the news conference that Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is in Washington and will stay there in a bid to find a solution to the bilateral dispute.
The Mexican president, who reiterated in the letter the need for development cooperation for Central America, also said Mexico has implemented measures to halt the flow of migration but insisted that the blame not be placed on those seeking opportunities in other countries.
Finally, he said he will continue the process of seeking ratification by Mexico’s Congress of a new trade agreement linking Mexico, the US and Canada.
That trade deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA), is meant to supersede the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into force in 1994.
Lopez Obrador’s administration began the process of securing legislative approval for the USMCA on Thursday, shortly before Trump’s announcement.
The US-Mexico border has been the scene of a months-long crisis, with a growing flow of undocumented migrants – mostly Central American families seeking asylum – trying to make their way to the US.
A total of 92,831 migrants crossed the US-Mexico border in March and that number rose to 98,977 in April, levels not seen over the past decade.