Trump Calls Off Tariffs On Mexico

Jun 8, 2019
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump has called off the new tariffs he threatened against Mexican goods. They were to begin Monday, but the two countries have announced new commitments in the effort to crack down on migrants traveling toward the U.S. NPR's Carrie Kahn brings us this report from the Mexican side of the border.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Emerging from the third day of lengthy negotiations between U.S. and Mexican officials, Mexico's ambassador to the U.S., Martha Barcena, read from a joint declaration.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARTHA BARCENA: Mexico will take unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration to include the deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.

KAHN: While Ambassador Barcena didn't specify how many troops would be deployed to the border between Guatemala and Mexico, she did say Mexico also agreed to take back more Central American migrants while they wait out resolution of their U.S. asylum claims. Mexico has already accepted more than 10,000 U.S. asylum-seekers. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard says Mexico fared pretty well in the negotiations, not making more concessions than the U.S. did.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARCELO EBRARD: I think it's a fair balance because they have more drastical (ph) measures and proposals at the start, and we reached some middle point.

KAHN: The U.S. had been pressuring Mexico to become a so-called safe third country, where migrants would have to request asylum in the first country they crossed into. For Guatemalans, that would be Mexico. Mexico staunchly rejected that plan. But while many of the details of the agreement still need to be hashed out and analyzed in the coming days, President Trump's threat to tax all Mexican goods has put many business owners, especially those along Mexico's northern border, on edge for days.

VICTOR SMITH: I am trying to control my anxiety by not getting too concerned about what comes out of the Twitter messages from our president.

KAHN: Victor Smith is a U.S. farmer who grows hundreds of acres of vegetables in Mexico. He farms in the fertile valley just south of the border of eastern California. Colorado river water, inexpensive Mexican labor and large U.S. investments have turned this sector of dusty desert into a major player, ensuring a year-round supply of many vegetables to U.S. consumers, says Smith. He says Trump's continual threatening of Mexico has left him extremely frustrated.

SMITH: You know, business loves certainty. And business cannot really operate effectively in a climate where you don't know what's going to happen, you know, year to year, month to month and, what it appears now, week to week.

KAHN: Smith has invested millions of dollars in his operations in northern Mexico, providing thousands of jobs to Mexicans, who also say they're tired of all the threats and worrying about the stability of their jobs here at home.

Fifty-four-year-old Salvador Ramirez Corona uses a huge pair of scissors to trim the white, thick, hairy ends of a bunch of green onions he's just cleaned up and bound together with a rubber band. There's such a strong smell of onions in the hot, dry air, it stings your eyes. This type of labor-intensive harvesting is barely done in the U.S. anymore. The entire crop of green onions, all for export, would have received Trump's tariffs and sent prices spiking for U.S. consumers.

SALVADOR RAMIREZ CORONA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Ramirez says, "Trump shouldn't threaten Mexico. It's really wrong of him to do so," he says.

CORONA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: He says, "it feels like Trump has all the power to do what he wants these days." Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Ciudad Morelos at the northern Mexican border. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.