Mexico has avoided the most extreme immigration concession sought by US President Donald Trump in the deal reached to fend off threatened tariffs, but it is left even weaker than before in the face of potential new pressure from Trump as he formally kicks off his re-election campaign this month.
Under the deal reached on Friday, Mexico agreed to use a large part of its newly formed National Guard to hold back immigrants crossing from Guatemala, and to take in possibly tens of thousands of people seeking asylum in the US while their cases are adjudicated.
Led by Foreign Minister Marcel Ebrard, negotiators in Washington resisted Trump’s core demand that Mexico be declared a safe third country, a classification that would oblige Central Americans crossing through Mexico to seek safe haven there, not the US.
But the two sides agree more action could be taken if within 90 days the measures do not have the desired result of drastically bringing down the numbers of undocumented migrants reaching the US border from levels that are at a more-than-decade high. Last month alone 132,000 were apprehended by US authorities.
Former World Trade Organisation head Pascal Lamy called Trump’s approach to coercing its neighbour and ally “hostage-taking”, reflecting widely-held concerns in Mexico that the US president will come back with more threats to extract greater concessions.
Those fears are sharpened because Trump has used Mexico-bashing to fire up his base on repeated occasions since kicking off his first campaign for the White House in 2015. All signs are that he intends to keep the focus on immigration and cross-border issues in his second-term campaign, which officially launches on June 18.
“We think the threats, demands and Trump tweets against Mexico will continue, especially because it’s all tied up with the politics of the 2020 election,” said Gabriela Siller, an economist at Mexican bank Banco Base.
Siller expects the peso currency to rise when markets open on Monday on relief that a trade war has been averted, but she said the uptick could be short-lived.
The peso, which had been pummelled in recent months on fears over a trade war, on Friday strengthened 0.5 per cent after Trump tweeted that there was a “good chance” a deal would be reached with Mexico.