US and Mexico reach migration agreement last-minute to prevent tariffs

President Donald Trump says he has suspended plans to impose tariffs on Mexico, tweeting that the country “has agreed to take strong measures” to stem the flow of Central American migrants into the United States.

“I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico,” he tweeted on Friday night, saying the tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the US on Monday “are hereby indefinitely suspended”.

He said Mexico had agreed to work to “stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border” and said those steps would “greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States”.

According to a joint declaration released by the State Department late on Friday, the US said it would work to expand a programme that returns asylum-seekers who cross the southern border to Mexico while their claims are adjudicated.

Mexico has also agreed to take “unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration”, including the deployment of the Mexican National Guard throughout the country, especially on its southern border with Guatemala.

And the US said Mexico was also taking “decisive action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organisations as well as their illicit financial and transportation networks”.

Mr Trump’s decision marked a change in tone from earlier on Friday, when his spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters in Ireland before Mr Trump took off: “Our position has not changed. The tariffs are going forward as of Monday.”

A tax on all Mexican goods, increasing every month up to 25% under Mr Trump’s plan, would have had enormous economic implications for both countries.

Americans bought 378 billion US dollars (£297 billion) worth of Mexican imports last year, led by cars and auto parts.

Many members of Mr Trump’s Republican Party and business allies had urged him to reconsider – or at least postpone actually implementing the tariffs as talks continued – citing the potential harm to American consumers and manufactures.

US and Mexican officials met for more than 10 hours on Friday during a third day of talks at the US State Department trying to hash out a deal that would satisfy Mr Trump’s demand that Mexico dramatically increase its efforts to crack down on migrants.

The talks were said to be focused, in part, on attempting to reach a compromise on changes that would make it harder for migrants who pass through Mexico from other countries to claim asylum in the US, those monitoring the situation said.

Mexico had opposed such a change but appeared open to considering a potential compromise that could include exceptions or waivers for different types of cases.