Trump doubles down on threats to slap tariffs on Mexico after monthly border arrests hit a 13-year high

  • President Donald Trump said Thursday that progress had been made in negotiations with Mexico, but cast doubt on whether a deal to avert trade escalations could be reached.
  • The president vowed to use emergency powers to slap a tariff on all of Mexico’s products on Monday, an effort to pressure Mexico to stem the flow of migrants entering the US through the southern border.
  • Republican lawmakers have expressed sharp opposition to the new tariffs on Mexico, which would hit everyday products ranging from automobiles to food.

President Donald Trump said Thursday that progress had been made in negotiations with Mexico, but cast doubt on whether a deal could be reached before sweeping tariffs on the US ally were set to take effect next week.

“I think a lot of progress was made yesterday but we have to make a lot of progress,” he told reporters during a trip to Ireland. “We’ll see what happens. But something pretty dramatic could happen. We have told Mexico the tariffs go on. I mean it, too. I’m happy with it.”

The president has vowed to use emergency powers to slap a 5% tariff on all of Mexico’s products on Monday in an effort to pressure officials to stem the flow of Central American migrants entering the US through the southern border. The tariff rate on about $US350 billion worth of imports would then increase each month through September, topping out at 25%.

Trump’s long standing frustration with Mexico was inflamed on Wednesday after government data showed that monthly arrests at the southwest border jumped to the highest level of his presidency. Apprehensions of migrants entering the US jumped by nearly a third in May to the highest level in more than a decade, according to the US Customs and Border Protection.

“Progress is being made, but not nearly enough! Border arrests for May are at 133,000 because of Mexico & the Democrats in Congress refusing to budge on immigration reform,” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “….talks with Mexico will resume tomorrow with the understanding that, if no agreement is reached, Tariffs at the 5% level will begin on Monday, with monthly increases as per schedule.”

Economists warn that US tariffs on Mexican imports would put North American trade relationships in jeopardy and act as a tax on Americans. The White House claims that foreign exporters pay tariffs, but evidence suggests they hurt businesses and consumers at home.

Republican lawmakers have expressed sharp opposition to the new tariffs on Mexico, which would hit everyday products ranging from automobiles to food. There may be enough GOP votes in Congress to block Trump’s move, but it remains unclear whether there would be enough support to override a presidential veto of any such legislation.

High-level talks between the US and Mexico were scheduled the continue Thursday after pausing a day earlier without a deal to avert the tariffs. Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said talks had so far been focused on immigration rather than trade, according to the Associated Press.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Wednesday laid out steps he said Mexico could take to avoid tariffs, including taking in all asylum seekers, increasing security at its border with Guatemala, and cracking down on corruption at checkpoints.

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