Top officials from the U.S. and Mexico will soon begin talks in a scramble to fend off Donald Trump's threat of tariffs on imports from the southern ally and meet his demand for fewer migrants at the border. On Monday, Mexican Economy Minister Graciela Marquez will meet with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Two days later, delegations led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard will also meet in Washington. The president will be notably absent from these discussions, however.
Mr. Trump is heading to London for a long-planned overseas trip. It's unclear what more Mexico can do — and what will be enough. Republican allies warn that tariffs on Mexican imports will hit U.S. consumers and harm the economy.
The president all but taunted negotiators for a quick resolution. "Mexico is sending a big delegation to talk about the Border," he tweeted Sunday. "Problem is, they've been 'talking' for 25 years. We want action, not talk."
Mr. Trump has been here before, issuing high-stakes threats, only to back off come crunch time. But a top White House official warned that the president was "deadly serious." He is threatening 5% tariffs on Mexican imports starting June 3.
Mr. Trump claims Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades but that the abuse will end when he slaps tariffs on Mexican imports. His frustration with the flow of migrants is nothing new, but it's a subject he often returns to, as he did last week after special counsel Robert Mueller's rare public statement on the Trump-Russia report.
The president said last week that he will impose the tariffs to pressure the government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to block Central American migrants from crossing the border into the U.S. Once implemented, the import tax will increase by 5% every month through October, topping out at 25%.
The tariff threat comes just as the administration has been pushing for passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which would update the North American Free Trade Agreement and top Republicans warned it could derail that effort.
GOP Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, called the tariffs a "mistake" and said it was unlikely Trump would impose them. The president "has been known to play with fire, but not live hand grenades,"
"It's going to tank the American economy," he said. "I don't think the president's going to impose these tariffs."