Trump’s tariff threat over migration prompts sharp response from Mexico: ‘There is a clear limit’

WASHINGTON – Mexico’s ambassador to the United States and other top officials warned the Trump administration Monday against imposing new tariffs aimed at punishing the country for the migration crisis. 

“There is a clear limit to what we can negotiate,” Martha Barcena, the ambassador, told reporters Monday during a news conference at Mexico’s embassy in Washington. “And that limit is Mexican dignity.”

Barcena and other officials spoke ahead of a series of hastily arranged meetings with Trump administration officials in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement last Thursday that he would slap a 5% tariff on all goods imported from Mexico until the flow of migrants across the U.S. southern border stopped.  

Trump said he would increase the tariff by 5 percentage points each month until “the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied.” Trump said the tariff could reach 25% by Oct. 1.

Mexico’s president has criticized the move and pressed the White House to reverse course. He dispatched Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and other top negotiators to Washington to try to reverse Trump’s decision. 

“We are here in order to have conversations,” Ebrard said at Monday’s news conference. “The tariffs could be very costly for the U.S. economy, for consumers in the United States and the Mexican economy.”

Barcena said Mexico has already made sweeping efforts to stem the flow of migrants, mostly coming from Central America, by cracking down on migrant smuggling and returning more than 80,000 migrants crossing through Mexico to their home countries.

She said Mexico is also hosting nearly 9,000 migrants who are currently waiting for an asylum hearing in the the United States, along with more than 18,000 migrants who plan to present asylum claims as slots come open.

“Without Mexico’s efforts, an additional quarter million migrants could arrive at the U.S. border in 2019,” Barcena said. Slapping tariffs on Mexico, along with the Trump administration’s decision to halt aid to Central American countries, is “counter productive,” she said, and will not reduce migration flows.

President Donald Trump says he's not looking to reinstate the much-criticized practice of separating migrant families at the border with Mexico. (April 9) (Photo: AP)

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, center, speaks at a news conference at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, Monday, June 3, 2019, as a Mexican delegation arrives in Washington for talks following trade tariff threats from the Trump Administration. (Photo: Andrew Harnik, AP)

Contributing: David Jackson 

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