Wendy Carolina Mejia from Honduras with her children at a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico (Mauricio Lima/New York Times)
As EA predicted on Friday, Donald Trump has called off his tariffs on Mexico, while claiming a “victory” amid limited, vague steps by the Mexicans over immigration into the US.
Returning to the US from a five-day trip to Europe, Trump tweeted on Friday night:
….stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border. This is being done to greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States. Details of the agreement will be released shortly by the State Department. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 8, 2019
In a joint statement, after talks in Washington with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mexico agreed to “take unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration”.
In fact, Mexico’s steps were limited and vague. The delegation, led by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, said that they will deploy its national guard throughout the country to check migrants from reaching the US border, and that they will accept an expansion of a Trump Administration program for some migrants to wait in Mexico while asylum claims are heard in the US.
But no details were given of the steps. Reports earlier in the week said Mexico could send 6,000 National Guard personnel to its southern border with Guatemala and bolster the presence on the US border.
Mexico balked at the Administration’s demand that it declare itself a “safe third country”, requiring that migrants seek asylum in the first foreign country they enter after leaving their homes.
The Mexicans, with about 8,000 migrants currently waiting in the country, are concerned that the provision would sharply increase the long-term number, putting strain on resources and the economy.
In a notable difference of emphasis from the Administration, Mexican Ambassador to the US Martha Bárcena said “measures for the application of its immigration law” will include health, education, and employment opportunities for migrants as they wait for asylum decisions from the US.
Bárcena wrote of renewed “cooperation for the development and prosperity of southern Mexico and Central America”, pointing to Mexico;s call on the US to invest more in helping the region.
Instead, Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign has led to the US cutting all aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, including for anti-violence, anti-poverty, and job creation programs.
The Illusion of “Winning”
Writing for EA and The Conversation on Friday, Gerasimos Tsourapas and Scott Lucas assessed that Trump’s 5% tariff — with a threatened rise of 5% per month to a maximum of 25% — would not work because of economic damage to both countries. Instead, Trump would seize the opportunity to proclaim “victory” with a view to his re-election campaign for 2020.
Vagueness will give Trump sufficient leeway to declare he is satisfied with any policy changes and move on….
It is the illusion of success, rather than actual credibility or effectiveness which matters….Look for Trump to obscure failure to check the movement of migrants with a declaration of satisfaction with Mexico’s response as he moves on.
Economists and businesses had warned that the tariffs, to be introduced on Monday, would increase costs for consumers and affect supply chains for manufacturers. Further damage could come from Mexican retaliation.
Analysts said more than 4,000 US jobs would soon be lost, on top of the cost — estimated to be up to $1.3 trillion of GDP — of Trump’s trade war with China.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Jared Kushner, and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer also said Congressional ratification of a revised North American Free Trade Agreement would be jeopardized. But Trump pressed ahead with his declaration on May 31.
Republican senators, in a rare sign of rebellion, threatened to block the tariffs by challenging Trump’s “national emergency” declaration from February, used to take money from Government agencies for his Wall with Mexico.
The general agreement avoided these risks while continuing to brandish Trump’s tough talk that if Mexico’s actions “do not have the expected results”, additional measures could be taken.
The agreement also said talks will continue about other steps that may be announced within 90 days.
In recent weeks, Trump has made a series of unfulfilled, high-profile threats. He has said that he would close the entire US-Mexico border and maintained the slogan “Finish the Wall” — even though construction of the 30-foot tall barrier has hardly begun and is under challenge in the US courts.