More talks between US and Mexico, but no deal yet to avert tariffs
WASHINGTON — Ending a second day of tense negotiations, U.S. and Mexican officials failed Thursday to reach a deal to avert import tariffs that President Donald Trump is threatening to impose as he tries to strong-arm Mexico into stemming the flow of Central American migrants across America's southern border.
Vice President Mike Pence, monitoring the talks from his travels in Pennsylvania, said the U.S. was "encouraged" by Mexico's latest proposals but, so far, tariffs still were set to take effect Monday.
Pence added that it would be "for the president to decide" whether Mexican was doing enough to head off the tariffs. Pence said that, among other issues, negotiators had been discussing a potential agreement to make it more difficult for those who enter Mexico from other countries to claim asylum in the U.S. Mexico has long resisted that request.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders issued a statement Thursday saying Trump's position "has not changed" and the president was "still moving forward with tariffs at this time."
Trump has threatened to impose a 5% tax on all Mexican goods beginning Monday as part of an escalating tariff regime opposed by many in his own Republican Party.
The frantic, last-minute talks underscore Trump's chaotic approach even when decisions have enormous economic consequences for both the U.S. and its closest allies. Trump has embraced tariffs as a tool he can use as leverage against other countries, dismissing the potential harm to American consumers and manufacturers.
Traveling in Europe, Trump told reporters that negotiators had made "a lot of progress," but continued to play coy.
"We'll see what happens," Trump said in Ireland before leaving for France to attend a D-Day ceremony. "But something pretty dramatic could happen. We've told Mexico the tariffs go on. And I mean it, too. And I'm very happy with it."
It remained unclear whether any deal could be struck with Trump out of the country. Many in Washington still expect the tariffs to go into effect barring a major new concession from Mexico, though lawmakers who have been in talks with both U.S. and Mexican officials said they were hopeful a deal could be reached to satisfy Trump, or at least delay the tariffs' implementation.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard spent several hours at the State Department Thursday morning, while Trump's legal counsel and other Mexican aides met at the White House Thursday afternoon.
Ebrard told reporters as he left the State Department Thursday evening: "We don't have yet an agreement. So tomorrow morning we are going to keep working."
His spokesman, Roberto Velasco, tweeted, "Options continue to be explored."
"The stance of the United States is focused on measures of migratory control, ours on development," he said.
Still, Ebrard noted that Mexico would deploy 6,000 National Guard troops to its border with Guatemala to help control the flow of migrants.
White House officials have downplayed the likelihood of a deal to avert the tariffs, with White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp telling Fox News in an interview that "it looks like we're moving toward this path of tariffs because what we've seen so far is that the Mexicans, what they're proposing, is simply not enough."
During Wednesday's talks, the gulf between the countries was clear as Mexico offered small, thus far undisclosed concessions, and the U.S. demanded major action. A senior administration official said the U.S. once again pressed Mexico to step up enforcement on its southern border and to enter into a "safe third country agreement" that would make it difficult for those who enter Mexico from other countries to claim asylum in the U.S.