(CN) – Mexico’s president said Friday he is confident his negotiators can reach a deal with the Trump administration to stop it from moving ahead with its plan to impose 5% tariffs on Mexican imports starting Monday.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at his daily news conference Friday morning he’s encouraged that talks in Washington have not broken down.
“I am optimistic that an agreement will be reached,” he said.
López Obrador, known as AMLO, also said he does not think immigration issues should be mixed with trade. President Donald Trump has no such qualms.
“Tariffs are a beautiful thing,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday, burnishing his self-styled “Tariff Man” nickname.
Trump announced in late May the U.S. would slap Mexico with the 5% tariffs and they would increase by 5% each month, up to 25% by October, if Mexico does not stop immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras from coming to the United States to ask for asylum.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced Wednesday that more than 144,000 undocumented immigrants were either apprehended after entering the U.S. illegally or asked for asylum at ports of entry in May, the third month in a row that the number of immigrant apprehensions has topped 100,000.
Many of them crossed the Rio Grande and turned themselves into Border Patrol agents to avoid delays that can sometimes stretch into several weeks if they wait to be processed at ports of entry.
To appease Trump, Mexican officials said they will send 6,000 National Guard troops to Mexico’s border with Guatemala to stop immigrants from heading north.
But experts said Mexico’s National Guard is not even fully operational yet, and won’t be until 2021, because it was just established in February with a vote by Mexico’s Congress.
AMLO said Friday the causes of the mass exoduses need to be addressed as those fleeing their Central American countries feel they do not have a choice but to leave. He said Mexico must provide support to improve the countries’ economies.
Salvadorans, Hondurans and Guatemalans are facing abject poverty, no job prospects and extortion and threats of violence from gangs who wield as much power as police forces.
The Trump administration said Thursday it is sticking to its plan to implement the first round of tariffs Monday, despite opposition from numerous Republican lawmakers.
Texas GOP U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have both urged Trump not to interfere with the state’s healthy trade relationship with Mexico, its largest trading partner.
Texas exported $109.7 billion in goods to Mexico last year, 35% of the state’s total goods exports, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, an advisory agency on trade for the president.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News on Wednesday the tariffs would amount to a tax on working-class Americans.
Each year, the U.S. imports billions of dollars in passenger and commercial vehicles, computers, car parts, cellphones, TVs and medical equipment from Mexico.