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Trump Brags About Mexico Deal, but Reveals No Details

Category: Diplomatic Relations,Politics

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday waved a piece of paper that he said was part of a “very long and very good” secret agreement with Mexico, refusing to describe it but vowing that it will go into effect whenever he wants it to.

The president’s dramatic flourish, delivered as he left the White House for a trip to Iowa, came a day after Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign minister, publicly denied that his country had reached an undisclosed immigration agreement with the United States.

Also Tuesday, Mr. Ebrard again said that there was no additional deal beyond what both governments had announced on Friday. “We don’t have anything to hide,” he said.

Reading from a letter that he had sent to the Mexican Senate, Mr. Ebrard gave a detailed account of the negotiations between the Mexican and United States governments, emphasizing how American officials had repeatedly insisted that Mexico sign an agreement that would require migrants traveling through Mexico to seek asylum there rather than in the United States — an agreement known as “safe third country.”

Instead, Mexico negotiated a 45-day window to show that its own measures to stem the flow of migrants would work. If they do not, Mr. Ebrard said, then the two sides agreed to an additional 45-day period to discuss a bilateral or regional agreement to return migrants.

The letter to the Mexican Senate suggested that the Mexicans had agreed that should the current measures fail to reduce migration, they would enter into negotiations about alternative solutions that would, at a minimum, require Mexico to assume more of the burden of asylum seekers heading toward the United States.

“Instead of accepting a safe third country agreement as the United States proposed, or the beginning of a trade war,” Mr. Ebrard’s letter said, “we managed to get a period of 45 days to demonstrate the efficiency of the measures that will be adopted and prepare ourselves as best we can for the negotiation that could follow in the next 45 days.”

Mr. Ebrard had given a similar explanation of the agreement on Monday, but said on Tuesday that he was taking the unusual step of making his letter public to be as transparent as possible.

For the second day in a row, Mr. Trump ignored Mr. Ebrard’s denial, insisting that his threat to impose tariffs on Mexican goods had forced Mexico to submit to an undisclosed agreement to combat what he views as an invasion from Central American migrants.

Asked by reporters to reveal what the agreement requires Mexico to do, Mr. Trump refused to do so, adding that “the reason is Mexico wants to handle that.”

A close-up photograph taken by a Washington Post reporter of the paper that Mr. Trump waved shows what appears to be a one-page letter signed on June 7 by two people whose names are unclear.

The final paragraph of the letter seems to refer to the agreement announced on Friday, called a “joint declaration,” and describes what will happen if the United States is not satisfied that the flow of migration to the southwestern border has slowed sufficiently.

“If the United States determines at its discretion and after consultation with Mexico, after 45 calendar days from the date of the issuance of the Joint Declaration, that the measures adopted by the Government of Mexico pursuant to the Joint Declaration have not sufficiently achieved results in addressing the flow of migrants to the southern border of the United States, the Government of Mexico will take all necessary steps under domestic law to bring the agreement into force with a view to ensuring that the agreement will enter into force within 45 days,” the letter says.

The president offered a series of confusing and contradictory statements, saying repeatedly that Mexico would have to submit the agreement to “their congress” while simultaneously saying that he has the power to impose it unilaterally if he wants to.

“If they bring the numbers way down, we won’t have to, but this is my option,” Mr. Trump said. “It goes into effect when I want it to, but I have a lot of respect for the president of Mexico. I have a lot of respect for the people we dealt with, so I don’t want to do that, and they have to go back to congress to get that approved.”

Moments later, he said that “it will go into effect when Mexico tells me it’s O.K. to release it.”

Mr. Trump and his aides have repeatedly referred to a “secret agreement” since Sunday morning when he first said on Twitter that a yet-to-be-revealed deal was reached with Mexico and would be “announced at the appropriate time.”

Since then, aides have refused to elaborate, saying that it was up to the president to decide whether to say more about it.

Because of Mr. Trump’s mention of approval by Mexico’s congress, Mexican officials and others have said they believe the president is referring to discussions about changes to the region’s asylum rules, which Mexico has said it would consider if the flow of migrants to the United States is not reduced over the next several months.

But Mr. Ebrard insisted on Monday that such a deal has not been reached with the United States, saying only that the two sides have agreed to potentially revisit the issue in the future.


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