Read more Speaking to Fox News Sunday, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged there are no concrete benchmarks being set to assess whether Mexico is acting to reduce numbers of migrants from Central America entering the US via Mexican territory enough to satisfy the White House.
We intentionally left the declaration sort of ad hoc, he said. So, theres no specific target, theres no specific percent, but things have to get better. They have to get dramatically better and they have to get better quickly.
Video: Trump stands firm on Mexico tariff proposal, responds to critics
He said the idea was to work with the Mexican government to make sure that things did get better.
Mexican Foreign Minister will hold a news conference in Washington DC on Monday
Trump claims Mexico has taken advantage of the US for decades but that the abuse will end when he slaps tariffs on Mexican imports next week in a dispute over illegal immigration. He tweeted on Sunday: America has had enough.
How serious is Trumps latest tariff threat against Mexico?
The president said last week that he will impose a 5% tariff on Mexican goods on 10 June to pressure the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to act on the issue of migrants. Trump said the import tax will increase by 5% every month through October, topping out at 25%.
The president has been here before, issuing high-stakes threats over his frustration with the flow of migrants only to later back off. They include a threat earlier this year to seal the border with Mexico.
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Republicans on Capitol Hill and allies in the business community have signaled serious unease with tariffs they warn will raise prices for consumers and hurt the economy. Some see the threat as a play for leverage and doubt Trump will follow through.
Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana on Sunday called the tariffs a mistake and said its unlikely Trump will actually impose them. The president has been known to play with fire, but not live hand grenades, Kennedy said on CBSs Face the Nation.
Mexico has rushed to offer talks on illegal migration after President Trump threatened punitive tariffs and sent a series of tweets calling the country an abuser of the United States.
Its going to tank the American economy, he said. I dont think the presidents going to impose these tariffs.
Marcelo Ebrard, the Mexican foreign minister who arrived in Washington to lead negotiations, said that talks began after Mr Trump announced plans on Friday for border duties from June 10.
Mexican officials are due to meet later this week with secretary of state Mike Pompeo in a bid to come to a resolution. López Obrador hinted on Saturday that concessions could be forthcoming.
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I think what the president said, what the White House has made clear, is we need a vast reduction in the numbers crossing, Kevin McAleenan, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said on CNNs State of the Union.
Video: Mexico offers economic incentives to keep its citizens from migrating to U.S.
Mulvaney, who also spoke Sunday on NBCs Meet the Press, said Mexico could take various steps to decrease the record numbers of migrants at the border. He suggested the government could seal its southern border with Guatemala, crack down on domestic terrorist organizations and make Mexico a safe place for migrants seeking to apply for asylum.
Mulvaney insisted that Trump is absolutely, deadly serious about tariffs and downplayed fears of their effect, saying he doubts business will pass on the costs to shoppers.
Video: Trump prepares to defend trade wars with Mexico, China
He also suggested the tariffs were an immigration issue, separate from the trade deal the US is trying to negotiate with Mexico and Canada.
The tariff threat comes just as the administration has been pushing for passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which would update the North American Free Trade Agreement.
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Several top GOP lawmakers have expressed concerns that Trumps tariff threat could upend that deal. The chairman of the Senate finance committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said last week the tariffs would seriously jeopardize passage of the USMCA, which needs approval in Congress.
Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will bring his hurricane of political intrigue and chaos to the UK today for three eventful days