MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico and the United States might consider additional steps next month to restrict illegal immigration from Central America, including measures to bind Brazil and Panama into efforts to combat the issue, Mexico’s foreign minister said on Monday.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the measures could be needed if a deal announced last week between Washington and Mexico fails to reduce within 45 days the numbers of migrants entering Mexico, mainly from Central America, on their way to the U.S. border.
The deal averted import tariffs on all Mexican goods that President Donald Trump had threatened to impose unless Mexico committed to do more to fight illegal immigration into the United States.
Under the agreement, Mexico will rapidly expand a program under which migrants applying for asylum in the United States wait out the process in Mexico. It has also pledged to reinforce its southern border with Guatemala with 6,000 members of its National Guard militarized police force, along with other measures.
Stock markets around the world rose on Monday while U.S. Treasury prices fell after the United States shelved the tariff plan, easing worries about the impact of another trade war on the global economy.
But Trump on Monday said he would go ahead with the proposed tariffs if Mexico’s Congress did not approve an as-yet-undisclosed part of the deal long sought by the United States.
“We do not anticipate a problem with the vote but, if for any reason the approval is not forthcoming, tariffs will be reinstated,” he wrote on Twitter.
Ebrard said Trump was referring to possible further measures to pressure countries other than the United States to have them share the burden.
U.S. border officers apprehended more than 132,000 people crossing from Mexico in May, the highest monthly level since 2006. Trump, who has called the surge in migrants an “invasion,” had threatened to keep raising duties up to 25% unless Mexico did more to curb it.
Many of the migrants are families trying to escape poverty and violent crime in Central America, one of the most impoverished areas in the Western Hemisphere.
Ebrard said other Latin American countries also needed to share the burden of stopping large groups of migrants heading northward.
“If the measures we are proposing are not successful, we have to discuss with the United States and with other countries, like Guatemala, Panama and Brazil,” he said. “It is a regional system.”
“If we have to participate in a regional model like the one I have just described, we would have to present that to Congress,” Ebrard said.
Asylum seekers from El Salvador and Honduras first pass through Guatemala when fleeing their homes, while Cubans and Haitians often fly first to Panama before heading to the United States through Mexico. Migrants from African countries regularly fly to Brazil before making the arduous journey north.
Mexico and the United States agreed last week to keep talking about further possible measures to address the crisis and would make announcements after 90 days.
Reporting by Dave Graham; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice in Washington and Frank Jack Daniel in Mexico City; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien