Senior US officials get a frosty reception in fiery Mexico

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By Catherine Hardy  with REUTERS
Senior US officials get a frosty reception in fiery Mexico

  • Senior US officials get frosty reception in Mexico
  • Fresh row brewing over migration
  • Fiery reponse from Mexican officials
  • NAFTA talks expected to start soon

Two of the US’ most senior officials have been given a frosty reception in Mexico due to a controversy brewing over the deportations of undocumented migrants.

The new US immigration guidelines were likely to top the agenda of meetings in Mexico City attended by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

The visit, which includes meetings with military, financial and interior officials, is focusing on border security, law enforcement and trade, according to the US State Department.

The disagreement is the latest point of tension between the two neighbours.

They have also been at odds over US President Donald Trump’s vow to build a wall on the border and his attempts to gain concessions on trade.

What has prompted the disagreement?

The US government has said it is considering a plan to deport many undocumented migrants back to Mexico if that is where they entered the US, regardless of their nationality.

What has been Mexico’s response to this?

A fiery one.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray has called the measures “unilateral” and “unprecedented”.

Mexican Economy Minister Idelfonso Guajardo said a meeting between the US dignitaries and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto depended on the outcome of the talks.

“The meeting will happen, if it happens, in the context of the agreements they reach,” Guajardo told reporters.

Pena Nieto pulled out of a planned summit with Trump in Washington last month because of disagreement over the Republicans’ effort to build a border wall to stem illegal immigration.

As part of its response to the new deportation measures, Videgaray said Mexico’s foreign ministry would get involved in legal cases in the US, where it considered the rights of Mexicans had been violated.

What has Washington said?

US officials have tried to play down the tensions.

Speaking on the eve of the meeting, White House spokesman Sean Spicer described the US relationship with Mexico as “phenomenal”.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made conciliatory comments about trade.

“Stop Donald Trump, Hate, Racism, Ignorance”

As the US officials visited Mexico’s foreign ministry, a small group of protesters shouted slogans outside.

They held banners that said “The Secretaries are not welcome,” and “Stop Donald Trump, Hate, Racism, Ignorance.”

The business

The latest public data from the US shows a $60 billion goods trade deficit with Mexico in 2016.

An estimated 40% of Mexican exports to the US contain US-made parts, economists say.

Mexico relies heavily on exports to its neighbour.

However, the stakes are also high for the US.

Mexico has warned a breakdown in relations could affect extensive cooperation on the fight against narcotics and on stemming the flow of migrants that reach the US border.


Idelfonso Guajardo also said he expected North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations with both the US and Canada to begin this summer and conclude by the end of this year.

US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says he does not see any changes to NAFTA in the short-term.

“I think there is a win-win result for us and Mexico on this. We’ve got to do things that are good for us and good for them,” Mnuchin said in a television interview.