Breaking: Trump cancels Mexico tariffs, announces “signed agreement”; Update: Firming up gains? Update: Joint declaration released


What better way to end a wild week than with what looks like a big Trump administration triumph? Within the last hour, Donald Trump announced on Twitter that the threatened tariffs on Mexico have been “indefinitely suspended,” and that negotiators have a “signed agreement” on immigration issues:

Mexico’s foreign minister also confirmed the existence of a firm agreement on Twitter:

Mexico Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard in a tweet confirmed the agreement. In a separate tweet, he thanked all who supported Mexico through its negotiations with the United States.

So far, there’s no word on what the agreement contains. Did Trump succeed in pushing Mexico into adopting the “safe third country” protocol? Both Trump and Mike Pence made it plain that’s what they wanted, and Mexico appeared to offer some movement in that direction — as long as tariffs were taken off the table. The White House’s response made it equally clear that Trump wasn’t giving up his leverage. Did that change? Or did the potential economic damage of a trade war look a lot more expensive than keeping an open channel for human trafficking?

Presumably, the deal will include some form of the “safe third country” protocol, perhaps along with some face-saving formulation for Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who went into this battle demanding “dignity.” It’s tough to imagine that Trump would have stopped short of that without at least trying the tariffs on Monday, and López Obrador probably knew that too. Even without it, though, Trump had already forced a paradigm shift in US-Mexico relations over immigration; Mexico got the message enough to start enforcing its own law at its southern border.

You Might Like

If this pans out, it will be a yuuuuuge win for Trump — so much so that even a late-Friday release will still dominate the news into Monday. He will have succeeded where several US administrations had not even bothered to try to fix the human flood over the southern border. Even skeptics of his immigration policies will have to cede credit to Trump in fixing, or at least seriously improving, an ongoing humanitarian and security crisis. Trump’s bragging on both foreign policy and immigration will get massively inflated — as will his bragging.

Who will be the big losers? Frankly, the biggest losers might be the Senate Republicans that tried to head off the tariff threat. They underestimated Trump, not for the first time, and now their attempts to overturn the tariffs had they been applied look foolish in retrospect. It’s not as though the economic and political risks weren’t real, but their rush to block Trump’s strategy without giving it a chance to work turned out to be as much of a gamble as Trump’s threat. Only that one didn’t pay off nearly as well.

If we get more on the details of the agreement tonight, we’ll update this post. Otherwise, we’ll follow up over the weekend.

Update: I didn’t realize that Allahpundit was also updating his earlier post, but he asks the same question I did on the “safe third country” protocol. Be sure to read his analysis of that issue from yesterday for more background.

Update: The Guardian looks at a joint declaration, in which the words “safe third country” aren’t mentioned … yet:

According to a US-Mexico joint declaration released later in the evening, Mexico agreed to take more migrants seeking asylum in the United States while they await adjudication of their cases.

The country also agreed to increase enforcement to curb illegal immigration, including deploying national guard troops to its southern border and cracking down on human smuggling organizations, the declaration said.

We haven’t seen the whole thing yet, but the gains already made were a significant win. If those have been made into permanent commitments, then all the better.

Update: The joint declaration can be found here. There’s no mention of any agreement on “safe third country” status, but there is this section under “further actions”:

Both parties also agree that, in the event the measures adopted do not have the expected results, they will take further actions. Therefore, the United States and Mexico will continue their discussions on the terms of additional understandings to address irregular migrant flows and asylum issues, to be completed and announced within 90 days, if necessary.

This explains why Trump said that tariffs were “indefinitely suspended,” rather than canceled. López Obrador committed to a permanent application of tougher enforcement and of dealing with asylum seekers, and Trump appears to have agreed on a conditional basis. The idea seems to be that Mexico will do everything to avoid the necessity of getting forced into a “safe third country” protocol. That’s a small win for López Obrador, but it also puts a lot of pressure on him to keep Trump happy.

López Obrador also got this from Trump:

The United States and Mexico reiterate their previous statement of December 18, 2018, that both countries recognize the strong links between promoting development and economic growth in southern Mexico and the success of promoting prosperity, good governance and security in Central America. The United States and Mexico welcome the Comprehensive Development Plan launched by the Government of Mexico in concert with the Governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to promote these goals. The United States and Mexico will lead in working with regional and international partners to build a more prosperous and secure Central America to address the underlying causes of migration, so that citizens of the region can build better lives for themselves and their families at home.

As I mentioned earlier this morning, that’s an easy concession for Trump; it was the status quo ante before the caravans started cranking up last summer. If Mexico stops that flow, the US will simply revert to its previous policies on foreign aid in Central America.

Update: This appears to be the biggest win for Trump in the declaration. Apart from Mexico’s pledge to maintain its current aggressive actions in shutting down the southern border to unauthorized migration, Mexico agreed to take back anyone crossing the border, asylum application or not:

The United States will immediately expand the implementation of the existing Migrant Protection Protocols across its entire Southern Border. This means that those crossing the U.S. Southern Border to seek asylum will be rapidly returned to Mexico where they may await the adjudication of their asylum claims.

In response, Mexico will authorize the entrance of all of those individuals for humanitarian reasons, in compliance with its international obligations, while they await the adjudication of their asylum claims. Mexico will also offer jobs, healthcare and education according to its principles.

This will lessen the attraction for many migrants, who won’t risk that journey just to end up cooling heels in Mexico.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *