MEXICO CITY – President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that Mexico was committed to free trade and would try to reach an agreement that avoided a confrontation with the United States at the high-level meeting taking place on Wednesday in Washington.
“Free trade is the best thing. Not imposing tariffs, duties, not closing ourselves off,” Lopez Obrador in response to a question from a reporter.
Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is meeting in the US capital with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Lopez Obrador said he was still “optimistic” that a deal would be reached with the United States to avoid the imposition of tariffs next week.
Mexico wants to maintain “the relationship of friendship” with the United States once the tariff conflict is resolved, the president said.
Last Thursday, President Donald Trump said his administration would impose escalating tariffs on Mexico unless that country took aggressive steps to stop the flow of illegal migrants from Central America.
Trump said in a Twitter post that he would impose a 5 percent tariff starting June 10 on all Mexican imports unless the neighboring country halted the northward flow of US-bound migrants.
Lopez Obrador said he preferred dialogue and avoiding isolation to the alternatives – a trade war or preventing a conflict and no longer communicating.
“We want to maintain our unity with the people and government of the United States. And maintain good relations with President Donald Trump,” the president said.
In response to a question from reporters, Lopez Obrador said Mexico had not ruled out expanding trade relations with China and Russia, but he noted that it was still important to “cultivate” the relationship with the United States.
Lopez Obrador said Washington would cross the line in the conflict if it interfered with the “sovereignty and dignity” of the Mexican people.
Trump said the US government would raise the tariffs on Mexican goods each month until the rate hit 25 percent in October unless the Lopez Obrador administration took action to stop the flow of migrants, the majority of them from Central America, to the United States.
“The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied,” the US president said.