Mexico and US gear up for tariff talks as Trump doubles down on threat

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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (right) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pose for photos during their meeting in Mexico City in July last year. Xinhua

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican and US officials were preparing on Sunday for upcoming talks aimed at averting a major trade clash after US President Donald Trump vowed to impose punitive tariffs on all Mexican goods in an intensifying dispute over migration.

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Mexican Economy Minister Graciela Marquez said on Sunday she would meet with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Washington on Monday, as the two governments begin holding talks to resolve the issue in the US capital in the coming week.

Mr Trump says he will apply tariffs of 5 percent on Mexican goods on June 10 if Mexico does not halt the flow of illegal immigration, largely from Central America, across the US-Mexican border.

The US president lashed out on Twitter on Sunday morning, calling Mexico an “abuser of the United States, taking but never giving,” and repeating his tariff threats. He doubled down a few hours later.

“Mexico is sending a big delegation to talk about the Border. Problem is, they’ve been ‘talking’ for 25 years,” Mr Trump wrote. “We want action, not talk. They could solve the Border Crisis in one day if they so desired. Otherwise, our companies and jobs are coming back to the USA!”

The tariffs will gradually rise to 25 percent if Mexico does not comply with Mr Trump’s demands. That threatens major economic damage to Mexico, which sends about 80 percent of its exports to the United States.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador hinted on Saturday that his government could agree to tighten migration controls to defuse Mr Trump’s threat, and said he expected “good results” from the talks in Washington.

Speaking on Sunday afternoon at an event to mark the start of construction on an oil refinery in southern Mexico, Mr Lopez Obrador did not refer directly to the trade dispute, but said he wanted to send a “memorandum” to the American people.

“The Mexican government is a friend of the United States government. The president of Mexico wants to stay friends with President Donald Trump. But above all, we are friends of the American people,” Mr Lopez Obrador said.

In words directed at the US public, he added: “We want nothing and no one to break our beautiful and sacred friendship.”

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