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Trump renews Mexico tariff threat amid row over migration deal

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US President Donald Trump renewed his threat on Monday to impose tariffs on Mexico as controversy erupted over what exactly is in the countries' new migration deal, which the Mexican government admitted would be reviewed in 45 days.

[MEXICO CITY] US President Donald Trump renewed his threat on Monday to impose tariffs on Mexico as controversy erupted over what exactly is in the countries' new migration deal, which the Mexican government admitted would be reviewed in 45 days.

Mr Trump resumed his pressure on Mexico in a series of tweets, three days after granting a reprieve from tariffs that could have spelled disaster for the country's economy - his strategy to get the Mexican government to do more to stop the surge of Central Americans arriving at the US border.

Mr Trump alluded to mysterious secret provisions in the deal that he said had to be approved by the Mexican Congress. "If for any reason the approval is not forthcoming, Tariffs will be reinstated!" he said.

He did not go into details, but Mexico said it had agreed to discuss one of Mr Trump's top demands, a so-called "safe third country agreement" - in which migrants entering Mexican territory must apply for asylum there rather than the US - if the flow of undocumented Central Americans continues.

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Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who led the Mexican negotiating team in marathon talks in Washington last week, said he had rebuffed the US demand for such a measure, but agreed to revisit the matter in 45 days.

"In the meeting with the vice president of the United States, they were insistent on the safe third country issue," Mr Ebrard told a press conference.

"We told them - I think it was the most important achievement of the negotiations - 'let's set a time period to see if what Mexico is proposing will work, and if not, we'll sit down and see what additional measures'" are needed, he said.

Mr Trump's latest comments came as he fended off criticism over a New York Times report that said the key terms of the deal were not new, and had in fact been agreed on months before his tariff threat.

Speaking later Monday on TV network CNBC, Mr Trump denied that, and said the secret part of the deal included "a very powerful tool."

"The people having to do with borders and illegal immigration and immigration of any kind - they understand exactly what that is," he said.

"But we purposely said we wouldn't mention it for a little while... It has to be brought by their legislative body, it's got to be taken to a vote."

CONTROVERSIAL DEAL 

Economists had warned the pain of Mr Trump's threatened tariffs - which were to start at five per cent Monday and rise incrementally to 25 per cent by October - and Mexican retaliatory measures would have been acute for both countries, with potentially global spillover.

Markets breathed a sigh of relief over the deal struck Friday.

But what is known of the agreement has drawn criticism from human rights groups who condemn what they call a draconian crackdown on migration and the criminalization of immigrants.

And as the contours of the deal continued to come to light, it appeared to grant Mexico only a temporary reprieve - with confusion surrounding key elements.

Under the deal, Mexico agreed to bolster security on its southern border and expand its policy of taking back asylum-seekers as the United States processes their claims.

Mr Ebrard said Friday that the promised deployment of 6,000 officers from Mexico's newly created National Guard to the southern border would begin Monday.

However, he appeared to backtrack on Monday, saying the deployment would happen "as quickly as possible."

There was no sign of a new deployment in Tapachula, the entry point for the large caravans that have crossed Mexico in recent months, said AFP correspondents.

Local officials said the federal government had indicated the new deployment could take around a week. In the meantime, it has sent 400 federal police reinforcements to the border, they said.

Mr Ebrard also denied the deal contained anything on Mexico buying US farm goods, after Mr Trump tweeted Saturday that "MEXICO HAS AGREED TO IMMEDIATELY BEGIN BUYING LARGE QUANTITIES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT FROM OUR GREAT PATRIOT FARMERS!"

In a further sign the deal is a work in progress, Mr Ebrard said Mexico and the US would hold talks with Guatemala, Panama, Brazil and the UN refugee agency on additional measures to control migration, because the solution "has to be regional."

AFP