WASHINGTON – Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard agreed on Wednesday with the United States that the flow of undocumented immigrants was growing and sought to reconcile positions with Washington to prevent the 5 percent tariff on all imports from Mexico from coming into effect on June 10.
Ebrard had a 90-minute meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence and other senior US officials in the White House, in a “cordial” meeting which ended without an agreement, as announced by US President Donald Trump from Ireland.
“Immigration discussions at the White House with representatives of Mexico have ended for the day. Progress is being made, but not nearly enough!” Trump said on Twitter.
Bilateral talks will continue in Washington on Thursday, “with the understanding that, if no agreement is reached, Tariffs at the 5 percent level will begin on Monday, with monthly increases as per schedule” up to 25 percent in October, Trump added.
During the White House meeting Pence made clear that “Mexico must do more to address the urgent crisis at our Southern Border,” he wrote on Twitter.
The meeting did not focus on tariffs, but on the immigration situation on the southern border, Ebrard said at a press conference.
Both delegations met shortly after the US Customs and Border Protection office (CBP) reported that the arrests of undocumented immigrants on the southern border rose to 132,887 in May, up 30 percent from April and the highest figure in a single month since 2006.
“Both sides recognize that the current situation cannot be maintained as it is, because the report shows the numbers and indeed, the flow is growing too much,” Ebrard said at his press conference at the Mexican Embassy in Washington.
He hinted that Mexico would be open to an agreement with the US to contain the arrival of immigrants to the latter country through its territory, a condition that Trump has imposed in return for not taxing Mexican imports.
But Ebrard did not specify whether Mexico is willing to give in to any of the three specific requests from the US to curb tariffs, listed Wednesday by White House Trade Adviser, Peter Navarro.
“They can commit to taking all the asylum seekers and then applying Mexican laws, which are much stronger than ours,” Navarro said.
He added that Mexico also has to commit to restricting the passage of immigrants on its border with Guatemala and to eradicate corruption, which in his view, gives free rein to undocumented migrants at official checkpoints in that country.
Ebrard clarified that there were still differences between the two sides in “what the US government is looking for are measures that have a short-term effect.”
“On behalf of Mexico, we believe that measures should be taken not only in the immediate and not just punitive,” but to reach “a broader understanding” on migration issues, he added.
However, the foreign minister kept up his forecast, made on Tuesday, according to which he sees a 80 percent chance of reaching “an understanding” with the United States on the issue.
“The important thing is that there is a willingness to approach, and the vice president was very clear in that sense,” Ebrard said.
The meeting was also attended by US Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who later held another one-one-one meeting with Ebrard.
On Thursday, Ebrard will meet with Pompeo’s team to continue with the agenda he has been working on since his arrival in Washington on Saturday to try to deter the Trump administration from imposing tariffs.
“What we would like is to avoid the effect of tariffs on both economies,” he stressed.
Several Republican senators have already spoken out against tariffs which would harshly affect border states considering the US is Mexico’s main trading partner.
The pressure from Trump’s party may have already begun to make an impression in the White House and Navarro acknowledged that “these tariffs may not have to come into effect,” because the White House has already managed to attract “the attention of the Mexican authorities” to the immigration problem.