Update On U.S.-Mexico Agreement
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PRESIDENT ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR: Viva Mexico. Viva Mexico.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
That's Mexico's president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Tijuana last night, leading what he called a celebration of the U.S. and Mexico brokering a deal over immigration and tariffs. Mexico's foreign minister spoke at the rally, saying, we didn't win everything, but the country has emerged with its dignity intact. Joining us now to talk about what Mexico actually got from this deal is Jose Diaz-Briseno, Washington correspondent for one of Mexico's largest daily newspapers, Reforma.
JOSE DIAZ-BRISENO: Thank you for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Trump is celebrating. Mexico is celebrating. But it seems that much of what is in this new agreement are things that had been agreed to months ago.
DIAZ-BRISENO: Yes. I think that despite any announcement made on Friday, the Mexican government itself mentioned that these two main programs - receiving more asylum-seekers returned from the U.S. - was something that was already on the table before. And deploying more resources to Mexico's southern border was something that was already agreed. What certainly was extraordinary and that really had an effect was this introduction of a threat of tariffs to the U.S.-Mexico relationship - you know, a relationship where there is a free trade in principle.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Let's go through some of the things that were agreed to - 6,000 National Guard troops to the southern border. The Mexican Congress only just recently created the National Guard. Is it operational, even, at this point? They're supposed to be there on Monday.
DIAZ-BRISENO: Yes. The total number of National Guard, they aim - the goal is 60,000. And it was created in February of this year. Many of them are already in training, but we still haven't seen them deployed out in the streets specifically. But what is true is that the Mexican government has already deployed some military units and navy units under, you know, the banner of the National Guard, specifically to detention centers in Chiapas.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So there were supposed to be 60,000 in total.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And they're deploying 6,000 to the border. Something else - Mexico's supposed to give more of the migrants coming from Guatemala asylum in the country. But the asylum system in Mexico is very underfunded and not very operational.
DIAZ-BRISENO: Completely underfunded - Mexico in itself has an austerity program. And it has half the budget of the previous year for the Instituto Nacional de Migracion - the migrations agency for Mexico. And everybody thought that if Mexico was going to get something from DCOS - probably some financing to improve its conditions of, you know, some immigration centers or even training of its police forces for immigration issues. Unfortunately, it's mostly things dealing with enforcement to what was contained in the declaration on Friday and a promise of considering the development plan for Central America that the Mexican president really wants.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. This development plan is a plan by Lopez Obrador to really fund programs in these countries that export a lot of these migrants to try and get people to stay in their home countries. Let me ask you this. The president just tweeted today, quote, "importantly, some things not mentioned in yesterday's press release - one in particular - were agreed upon. That will be announced at the appropriate time." Any idea what he's talking about?
DIAZ-BRISENO: Well, it'd be presumptuous for me to go into the president's head. But...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes (laughter).
DIAZ-BRISENO: Almost surely, he was referring to this tweet on Friday, where he said that Mexico agreed to buy more agricultural products from farmers in the U.S. Yes, the - Bloomberg had a report saying that they have checked with sources that basically this was not contained, and there's no word of agriculture in the agreement. And Mexico is already the No. 2 agricultural market for U.S. exports. And also, Mexico itself has a plan - the National Development Plan - where Mexico is aiming to be self-sufficient in most products, so it would go directly in contrast to Mr. Lopez Obrador's saying.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I guess at the end - and just briefly, what did Mexico get out of this? What actually did they get, if anything?
DIAZ-BRISENO: Well, the only thing is that - thinking of reports of the Mexican economy going down into recession in 2020 if the tariffs were enacted at their top level - 25% - by October, I think that is, in southwest, a sign of relief for Mexico to get this deal.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Jose Diaz-Briseno, Washington correspondent for the Mexican newspaper Reforma.
Thank you very much.
DIAZ-BRISENO: Appreciate it - thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.