Mexico leader says will hold tariff talks with Trump ‘if necessary’
“If necessary, we would do it,” he answered when asked at a news conference if he would meet with Trump personally to seek an agreement to avoid the American leader’s threatened tariffs.
Initial tariffs of five percent are due to come into force Monday, and rise gradually to 25 percent by October — Trump’s bid to force Mexico to do more to stop the flow of migrants and drugs across the countries’ shared border.
Lopez Obrador, who has sought to avoid confrontation and sounded upbeat on the possibility of reaching a deal, was also asked about Trump’s comments earlier in the day that he thought it was more likely than not the tariffs would be imposed despite Mexico’s efforts to negotiate.
“It’s likely we will reach an agreement, and we are going to continue insisting that talks are the way to go,” said the leftist leader, who took office in December.
The Mexican president has sent a high-level delegation to Washington to negotiate with US officials, led by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who is due to meet Wednesday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Lopez Obrador said he wanted to let that process run its course before meeting with Trump himself.
“The talks are going very well, the meeting with the US secretary of commerce, with the secretary of agriculture, meetings with US officials. I’m optimistic. I think tomorrow’s meeting (with Pompeo) is going to be important, and we’re going to reach a deal before June 10,” he said.
“There are indications that it’s important to US officials to reach a deal.”
Separately, the Mexican foreign ministry said the Mexican delegation would meet later Tuesday with top Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and other members of Congress.
Trump’s surprise tariff threat has caused panic in Mexico, which sends 80 percent of its exports to the United States.
But Mexican officials warn the tariffs — and likely retaliatory measures — would be painful for the US, too.
Mexico has been the largest US trading partner so far this year, thanks mainly to Trump’s trade war with China, which previously held the top spot.
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