- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2019

Mexico’s president said he will rally at the U.S. border this weekend to try to head off President Trump’s vow to impose economically crippling tariffs, but offered no new solutions Thursday as the two sides rushed to beat Mr. Trump’s Monday deadline for action.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged Mexico’s governors, trade union leaders and others to join him in Tijuana, where he’ll “defend the dignity” of his country and offer “friendship with the people of the United States.”

His public relations push comes as the negotiators he deployed to Washington try to head off the 5% tariff Mr. Trump plans to impose starting Monday as retaliation for Mexico failing to do more to shut off the flow of illegal immigrants reaching the U.S.

A second day of talks Thursday did not produce a breakthrough, though both sides were quick to say they were acting in good faith and were making progress.

“There’s been some movement on their part that’s been encouraging,” said Vice President Mike Pence, who has been overseeing negotiations. “Ultimately President Trump will make the decision whether or not the actions that Mexico’s prepared to take are sufficient for us to consider changing course, but at this point, the tariffs are going to be imposed on Monday.”

He said more discussions will happen “in the days ahead.”

Mexico has offered to deploy more authorities and step up patrols along its own southern border to try to block some of the 5,000 or so migrants entering daily.

Currently, U.S. officials say, Mexico blocks perhaps just one in five of them, leaving more than 4,000 a day to reach to the U.S.

The Associated Press reported that one caravan was broken up at Mexico’s southern border Wednesday.

But Mr. Lopez Obrador says the real solution lies in the U.S. and Mexico engaging in nation-building in Central America, strengthening Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to make them more attractive for their citizens to stay.

U.S. officials say that’s not good enough given the immediate crisis.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who was part of Wednesday’s negotiations, says Mexico needs to do more to tackle the smuggling organizations that funnel the migrants north.

And he says Mexico could take a lot of pressure off the U.S. by signing a safe third-country agreement, which would allow the U.S. to return most Central American asylum-seekers who come through Mexico back to Mexico.

According to surveys, most of those migrants don’t want to stay in Mexico, so the prospect of falling short of their destination in the U.S. could convince them not to bother making the trip in the first place.

A third-country agreement had been a hard “no” for Mr. Lopez Obrador, but Mexican officials on Thursday were reportedly warming to the possibility.

Mr. Trump and the White House have pointedly not set a firm goal for Mexico to meet, leaving the president free to decide what counts as enough progress to forgo his tariffs.

His plan is to start with a 5% levy on Monday, then increase it each month until it reaches 25%. It would apply to all Mexican imports.

Analysts said Mexico’s economy is far more dependent on the U.S. than vice versa, leaving Mr. Lopez Obrador with an incentive to strike a deal.

Yet Mr. Trump faces his own pressure.

The Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the country’s top tax lawmaker, said Thursday he will introduce legislation next week to block the tariffs.

A number of Republicans said they would seriously consider voting for such a “resolution of disapproval.”

Mr. Trump told them to butt out.

“They have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to tariffs,” he said.

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