By RICARDO CASTILLO
U.S. President Donald J. Trump is off visiting the queen in England, but he did not forget that he’s got a bone to pick with Mexico. And to remind everyone that “President Trump is dead serious about taxing Mexican imports,” he left behind acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvane, who on Sunday, June 2, kept repeating that phrase on Fox News and NBC.
The reason is that since Thursday, May 30, Trump has repeatedly threatened Mexico once again with countervailing duties. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) mobilized his entire team of cabinet heavyweights to go to Washington to impede the new tariff Trump threatens to slap on Mexican imports, which would become effective on Monday, June 10, with a 5 percent general increase on all goods until Mexico stops migration from Central America. Trump has threatened to increase that tariff an additional 5 percent every month for five months in a row.
On Monday, June 3, Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary (SRE) Marcelo Ebrard held a press conference, joined by Economy Secretary Graciela Márquez Colin, SRE Undersecretary for North America Jesus Saeed, National Palace Chief of Staff Alfonso Romo and Mexican Ambassador to the United States Martha Elena Federica Bárcena Coqui.
Of course, Tweeting Donald was advised in advance that López Obrador would send this team since originally they were there to try nail down the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (UMSCA) and had a warning shot from the Mexican president.
Trump tweeted: “Mexico is sending a big delegation to talk about the border. The problem is, the two countries have been ‘talking’ for 25 years. We want action, not talk. The Mexicans could solve the border crisis in one day if they so desired. Otherwise, our companies and jobs are coming back to the United States!”
The Mexican team’s official meeting with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was supposed to be to wrap up loose ends on the UMSCA, but surely this meeting will prove to be a convenient location to calm The Donald down regarding the role Mexico has as the in-between nation in the migration phenomena.
On Friday, May 31, López Obrador wrote a personal letter to Trump telling him that placing tariffs on a nation due to immigration problems is not a solution. The solution, he said, is developing Central America so that migration stops flowing north.
Foreign Relations Secretary Ebrard, however, was also issued instruction by the president to move to Plan B, which consists in filing suits with the World Trade Organization (WTO)m since these tariffs have absolutely nothing to do with trade. Also, since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is still valid, Mexico has every right to fight back through the trade negotiating panels that have served NAFTA business dealers so well.
In Mexico, there are mounting voices calling for “an-eye-for-an-eye” tariffs in response to Trump’s threatened tariffs, but, for now, AMLO has not taken a stance on the issue. He insists that he sympathizes with Trump, but said in his letter that “the great friends of Mexico are the people of the United States.”
What exactly Trump wants from Mexico is not crystal clear. On Sunday, June 2, Mulvaney tried to explain it on Fox News without presenting a clear objective.
Mulvaney admitted that there are no benchmarks as to whether Mexico is doing enough to stem the flow of migrants from Central America. “We intentionally left the declaration sort of ad hoc,” he said.
Mulvaney added, “there’s no specific target, there’s no specific percentage, but things have to get dramatically better and they have to get better quickly.”
Mulvaney also appeared in the Sunday NBC News political talk show, but remained as vague as he was on Fox.
His suggestions were that Mexico could seal the Guatemalan border – mission impossible – and that Mexico could “crack down on domestic terrorist organizations” – there aren’t any, that Mexico knows of, albeit there are criminal organizations – and also that the government could make Mexico “a safe place” for migrants seeking to apply for asylum. That too is being done.
Another Sunday interviewee was acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan. who on CNN’s “State of the Union” displayed the same vagueness Mulvaney had.
“I think what the president said, what the White House has made clear, is that we need a vast reduction in the numbers crossing,” through Mexico into the United States, he said.
In the meantime, in Mexico, at different newscasts the countdown to disaster began on Monday, June 3, as many broadcasters are hitting the terror button because it is now less than a week before the tariffs are imposed.
The fact is that negotiators are gearing up for the slated Wednesday, June 5, meeting.
In the meantime, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was quoted as telling Mexican Economy Secretary Graciela Márquez: We’re getting ready to talk tariffs,” whatever that may mean.