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Trump Gets Deal To Avert Mexican Trade War; Here’s What’s In It

The deal averts a trade war that would harm both countries.

Late last night, the United States and Mexico finally reached a deal to avert a new trade war between the two countries. President Trump announced the deal with a post on Twitter Friday evening that said that tariffs on Mexico had been “indefinitely suspended.”  

Details of the deal are sketchy but seem to closely mirror the Mexican offer that I detailed yesterday. Mexico had agreed to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops to its southern border with Guatemala as well as agree to asylum protocols that would require refugees to remain in the first country they entered after leaving their homeland while their case is processed.

The president also tweeted that Mexico agreed to buy “large quantities” of agricultural products from American farmers. American agriculture has been hit hard by the president’s tariff war with China, which greatly reduced US exports.

A memo from the State Department notes that the US and Mexico committed to the following:

  • Mexican enforcement surge “giving priority to its southern border.” The two countries also agree to “strengthen bilateral cooperation, including information sharing and coordinated actions to better protect and secure our common border.”
  • “Migrant protection protocols” that return migrants arrested in the US back to Mexico, where they will wait for their cases to be heard. In return, the US commits to “accelerate the adjudication of asylum claims and to conclude removal proceedings as expeditiously as possible.”
  • The agreement says that “further actions” will be taken if these measures do not achieve the “expected results.”
  • The two countries will have further talks regarding “irregular migrant flows and asylum issues.”
  • The final paragraph reaffirms the commitment of both countries to the trade deal negotiated last year and both nations pledge to address the “underlying causes of migration.”

Reaction to the deal was mostly positive with palpable relief on both sides of the border that the tariffs would not take effect as scheduled. The deal also allows President Trump to finally claim some measure of victory in his war against illegal immigration across the southern border.

“We now have an agreement that we believe is going to fix the immigration issue. And that was extremely important to the president,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Reuters at the G20 Summit meeting in Japan.

How effective the deal will be remains to be seen. It is uncertain how long Mexico will be able to support a large deployment of troops on its Guatemala border. The comparatively poor country may not be able to sustain large numbers of migrants awaiting asylum claims in the US indefinitely. Additionally, the joint agreement specifies that Mexican enforcement efforts be aimed at “human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as their illicit financial and transportation networks.” If Mexico prioritizes its limited resources on combatting illegal immigration then enforcement may suffer in other areas such as drug smuggling.

The policy of returning migrants to Mexico may be short-lived. The Trump Administration is currently appealing a court ruling that held that returning asylum seekers to Mexico violated the law. The court allowed deportations to continue during the appeal.

The president’s victory may also limit his ability to use illegal immigration as an issue in the future. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted, “Now that that problem is solved, I’m sure we won’t be hearing any more about it in the future.”

It remains to be seen whether Mexico will be willing or able to honor its commitment and whether the results of the deal will be worth the stress that the president’s tariff threat placed on US-Mexico relations. The one certainty is that President Trump can finally claim a victory for both his tariff policy and his hardline immigration policy whether it ultimately solves the problem of illegal immigration or not. For most people on both sides of the border, however, the best part of the deal is that a new trade war has been avoided with its increased costs for American consumers and interruptions to business supply lines.

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