US President Donald Trump touted Saturday his last-minute deal averting tariffs on Mexico, saying the agreement will be a big success if Mexico cracks down on illegal immigration as promised.
Trump abandoned the tariffs, planned to be effective Monday as US economists warned the tariffs would have been disastrous for both countries.
Senior officials announced an agreement Friday night after three days of intense negotiations at the State Department.
Under the deal, Mexico agreed to expand its policy of taking back migrants from violence-riven Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as the United States processes their asylum claims.
Mexico will also use its new National Guard nationwide to crack down on illegal migration, in particular along its southern border with Guatemala, a gateway for poor Central Americans hoping to reach the US.
In turn, Mexico managed to avoid a proposal it had continually rejected — that it process asylum claims on its own soil before migrants reach the United States.
“Mexico will try very hard, and if they do that, this will be a very successful agreement for both the United States and Mexico!” Trump tweeted early Saturday.
Later, he added: “Everyone very excited about the new deal with Mexico!”
Trump announced the deal on Twitter shortly after returning from a trip to Europe.
For many, it was vintage Trump behaviour: trigger a crisis and let it simmer for a while, then declare it resolved and take credit.
In Mexico, some advocacy groups criticised the deal, saying Mexico would be militarising its border with Guatemala to detain innocent women and children when the real problem — grinding poverty and desperation fuelling the exodus north — goes unaddressed.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who had planned to head Saturday to the border city of Tijuana to show solidarity ahead of the tariffs, said that his trip would now be to celebrate.
Trump, who ran for president pushing a tough line on immigration that included denouncing some undocumented Mexicans as rapists, had vowed to raise tariffs as high as 25 percent unless Mexico — which exports $350 billion in goods each year to the United States — takes further action against migrants.
The tariffs would have clobbered Mexico’s economy, which is integrated with the United States and Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement, with experts warning of a recession and the Fitch rating service already downgrading Mexico’s credit rating.
Economists also warned the tariffs would hurt US companies that have set up complex supply chains across the borders with Mexico and Canada, leading to higher prices for US consumers for everything from tequila to refrigerators as importers pass along the cost of tariffs.
The tariffs also drew unusually strong opposition from Trump’s fellow Republicans, especially lawmakers from farm states who worried about losing their second largest international market.