Talks with Mexico continue without clear targets for avoiding tariffs

With the days dwindling before President Trump’s threatened tariffs on Mexican goods kick in Monday, the White House has yet to specify what targets Mexico must reach in order to avoid the tariffs. Talks are continuing in Washington Thursday between the White House, State Department, Department of Homeland Security and Mexican officials, although top U.S. officials — including President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — won’t be there.

But the U.S. appears to have no specific requests for the Mexican government, or if it does, the White House has yet to describe them. Throughout the week, reporters have repeatedly asked White House officials what targets Mexico needs to meet to avoid the 5% tariffs on imports, which will gradually increase each month.

U.S. and Mexican officials are scheduled to meet at the White House at 2 p.m. Thursday. Wednesday’s talks ended without the two sides reaching an agreement.

“I think we are advancing,” Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said outside the State Department on Thursday. “The meeting, we had some advances. We are going to return later to continue discussing the several points that we proposed.”

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard speaks to reporters after a meeting between U.S. and Mexican officials on immigration and trade at the State Department in Washington on June 6, 2019. LEAH MILLIS / REUTERS

Asked by CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang what Mexico can do to avoid the tariffs, White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp said the U.S. wants to see reduced numbers of illegal crossings by migrants from Central America, but gave no specific figure. The number of migrants apprehended or turned away at the border reached near-record highs in May.

“I don’t want to get ahead of any of these discussions, they’ll have more discussions obviously today,” Schlapp told reporters outside the White House Thursday. “As you know, Secretary Pompeo met yesterday with the foreign minister following the meeting here. So again, what we want to see is our outcome is seeing reduced numbers in terms of illegal crossings and gaining operational control of the southern border.”

Shchlapp wouldn’t say what Mexico has proposed to do or what the U.S. is asking, but did say Mexico needs to offer more.

“I’m not going to go into any details on the discussions at hand,” Schlapp said. “What we can tell you is that what Mexico is offering is not enough. We need to see more coming from Mexico. Obviously what President Trump has done in terms of pushing forward on a tariff has brought them to the table. That’s why they came to the United States, that’s why they’ve met with officials yesterday, with the vice president yesterday, and we want to see more progress coming from the Mexican officials.”

On Wednesday night, Mr. Trump tweeted from overseas that “progress is being made, but not nearly enough!”

When Mr. Trump was asked Sunday night what Mexico must do to avoid the tariffs, he simply said they need to stop the “flow of drugs, of immigrants, illegal immigrants — people that have not gone through the process.”

Meanwhile, many Republicans in Congress are uneasy as the deadline for the tariffs nears, suggesting to the president that imposing them is the wrong way to handle the situation at the border.

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