Trump steps up attacks on Mexico, tariff threat called ‘deadly serious’

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Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on Mexico over immigration Sunday as a top aide warned that the US president is “deadly serious” about slapping tariffs on imports from the southern neighbour.

The attacks came despite efforts at conciliation by Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who said Saturday US officials were willing to “reach agreements and compromises.”

“People have been saying for years that we should talk to Mexico. The problem is that Mexico is an ‘abuser’ of the United States, taking but never giving,” Trump said in a series of tweets Sunday.

Unless Mexico stops the “invasion,” he warned, he would use tariffs to bring back “companies and jobs that have been foolishly allowed to move South of the Border.”

Trump’s surprise threat this week to slap tariffs on all Mexico imports, beginning at five percent on June 10 and rising to as high as 25 percent, shocked Republican allies in Congress.

It also rattled world markets, already shaky over trade war fears.

The New York Times reported that the move — pushed by immigration hardliners — was opposed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, a key White House intermediary with Mexico.

But Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, said Trump was “absolutely deadly serious” about proceeding with tariffs.

“I fully expect these tariffs to go into at least a five percent level on June 10,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Mulvaney said Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would meet with Mexican representatives in Washington this week, as would Lighthizer, to spell out what the Mexicans could do to avoid the tariffs.

The number of migrants reaching the US border is “huge, the situation is real and the president is deadly serious about fixing the problem,” he said.

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