The US and Mexico have reached an agreement to stave off tariffs on Mexican goods, officials confirmed on Friday night. On Saturday Donald Trump heralded the deal but complained about its coverage by the US media, while his treasury secretary told reporters the president retained the authority to impose tariffs if Mexico did not live up to the deal.
Trump had threatened to impose 5% tariffs on all Mexican goods, rising to 25%, if the country did not agree new measures to stem migration from Central America. The tariffs were set to go in effect on Monday but the president tweeted late on Friday that a deal had been reached and the tariffs were “indefinitely suspended”.
“Thanks to the support of all Mexicans, the imposition of tariffs on Mexican products exported to the USA has been avoided,” the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, tweeted.
In a joint declaration, both countries said Mexico agreed to immediately expand along the entire border a program that sends migrants seeking asylum in the US back to Mexico while they await adjudication.
The country also agreed to increase enforcement to contain the flow of migrants headed to the US, including by deploying national guard troops to its southern border and cracking down on human smuggling, the declaration said.
On Saturday Trump celebrated a victory, writing: “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 did not specify which reports had annoyed him, simply adding: “These ‘Fakers’ are Bad News!”
Complaints about the mainstream media are as much part of Trump’s political messaging as diatribes against undocumented immigration and threats to impose tariffs on geopolitical competitors.
At a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Fukuoka, Japan, the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said Trump retained the authority to impose tariffs.
“We now have an agreement that we believe is going to fix the immigration issue,” Mnuchin told reporters, adding that he spoke to Trump just before the deal was announced. “And that was extremely important to the president.
“Our expectation is that Mexico will do what they’ve committed to do and our expectation is that we won’t need to put tariffs in place, but obviously if that’s not the case, the president retains that authority.”
Friday’s agreement did not include a US proposal to return asylum seekers from Guatemala to Mexico, and Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers to Guatemala, Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said.
“I think it’s a fair balance: they had more drastic measures and proposals at the start and we reached some middle point,” he said, adding that the the national guard deployment would start on Monday.
Ebrard highlighted US support in the agreement for a Mexican proposal to jointly address the causes of migration from Central America.
The asylum program is commonly known as Remain in Mexico and operates in the border cities of Tijuana, Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez. Under the new deal, returned asylum seekers will spend long periods in cities such as Reynosa, on the Texas border.
Drug cartels frequently kidnap migrants in such cities. The program was challenged in court earlier this year by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups which say it puts asylum seekers in danger and violates US and international law.
A federal judge ruled to halt the policy but an appeals court overturned the decision. Between January and June, 10,393 mostly Central Americans have been sent back to Mexico.
Mexico and US officials had been negotiating for three days in Washington and businesses were bracing. Americans bought $378bn of Mexican imports last year, led by cars and auto parts. Companies were racing to ship as many goods as possible out of Mexico, including cars, construction materials and appliances. Hundreds of semi-trailers idled in line at a truck crossing in Tijuana.
The two countries will continue discussions, to be completed in 90 days, on further steps, according to the declaration.
Trump has embraced tariffs as a political tool to force countries to comply with his demands, in this case on his signature issue of immigration. In Fukuoka on Saturday, Mnuchin said he planned talks on trade with the governor of China’s central bank.
At home, Trump had faced bipartisan opposition toward his tariff plan.
On Friday the Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida greeted the deal and echoed Trump, writing on Twitter: “The threat of tariffs got Mexico to agree to take unprecedented steps to control illegal migration. Will be very interesting to see how media covers this now. It is going to be very hard for some of them to give [Trump] credit for this.”
In return Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer was sarcastic, using a tweet to point to Trump’s use of tariffs as a political tool: “This is an historic night! [Trump] has announced that he has cut a deal to ‘greatly reduce, or eliminate, illegal immigration coming from Mexico, and into the United States.
“Now that that problem is solved, I’m sure we won’t be hearing any more about it in the future.”
Trump has repeatedly warned of an “invasion” and criminal threats at the border. Agents made 132,887 arrests in May, the first time detentions have increased past 100,000 since April 2007, and the highest monthly total since Trump took office. Of those detained, 11,507 were unaccompanied children.