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Pompeo to meet with Mexico's foreign minister to discuss immigration, trade

The Mexican ambassador to Washington, Martha Barcena, on Thursday said “we have said once and again that we are not ready to sign” any such safe third country agreement.

US secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Picture: AFP

MEXICO CITY – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on Sunday to discuss migration and trade, amid heightened bilateral tension ahead of a deadline on a deal that removed tariff threats on Mexican exports.

Under the June agreement with the United States, Mexico averted punitive tariffs on US-bound Mexican shipments threatened by President Donald Trump by promising to stem the flow of illegal migrants from Central America by 22 July.

The 10:30 am meeting in Mexico City between Pompeo and Ebrard comes a day before the end of the 45-day period expires and as US lawmakers wrangle over a regional trade deal meant replace the current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

If the United States deems that Mexico has not done enough to thwart migrants, the two countries are due to begin talks over changing rules to make most asylum seekers apply for refuge in Mexico, not the United States.

Mexico has long resisted US pressure to accept the so-called “safe third country” status.

The Mexican ambassador to Washington, Martha Barcena, on Thursday said “we have said once and again that we are not ready to sign” any such safe third country agreement.

Ebrard said on Friday that Mexico has followed through on its commitment to the United States to reduce migration from Central America after the number of apprehensions of migrants on the southern US border dropped by roughly a third to about 100,000 in June. Mexico has deployed some 21,000 militarised National Guard police to stem the flow.

But ultimately it will be Trump’s administration that decides if Mexico’s efforts are deemed sufficient.

Trump has made immigration a cornerstone of his presidency and pledged to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico in his 2016 run for office. He has since fought with Congress and in the courts for funding to pay for it.

His administration announced sweeping new asylum rules on Monday that bar almost all immigrants from applying for asylum at the US-Mexico border by requiring them to first pursue safe haven in a third country through which they had travelled on the way to the United States.

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