Mexico to discuss 'safe third country' deal with US if migration does not slow

File photo of US President Donald Trump. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico Jun 10, 2019, 10.32 PM (IST)

Mexico said Monday it will discuss a "safe third country" agreement with the United States -- in which migrants entering Mexican territory must apply for asylum there rather than the US -- if the flow of undocumented immigrants continues.

Amid speculation about the contents of Mexico's deal to curb migration in order to avert President Donald Trump's threat of tariffs, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said he had rebuffed the US demand for such a measure, but agreed to revisit the matter in 45 days.

"In the meeting with the vice president of the United States, they were insistent on the safe third country issue," Ebrard told a press conference, three days after reaching a last minute deal to avoid punitive tariffs over the surge of Central American migrants arriving at the US-Mexican border.

"We told them -- I think it was the most important achievement of the negotiations -- 'let's set a time period to see if what Mexico is proposing will work, and if not, we'll sit down and see what additional measures'" are needed, he said.

Ebrard, who led the Mexican negotiating team in marathon talks in Washington, spoke as Trump renewed his tariff threat over a secret provision in the deal.

Trump tweeted that part of the deal would require approval by the Mexican Congress -- he did not give details -- and that "if for any reason the approval is not forthcoming, Tariffs will be reinstated!"

The comment came as he fended off criticism over a New York Times report that said the key terms of the migration deal had in fact been agreed on months ago.

Speaking later on CNBC, Trump said the secret provision was "a very powerful tool."

"I'm going to tell you that most people understand -- that the people having to do with borders and illegal immigration and immigration of any kind -- they understand exactly what that is," he said.

"But we purposely said we wouldn't mention it for a little while ... It has to be brought by their legislative body, it's got to be taken to a vote. So we didn't bring it up, but most people know that answer."

Story highlights

Ebrard, who led the Mexican negotiating team in marathon talks in Washington, spoke as Trump renewed his tariff threat over a secret provision in the deal.