The story about the Trump administration’s negotiations with Mexican officials over immigration and the threat of tariffs continued for a second day to raise more questions, prompted by dubious claims by the president.
First, Trump claimed a last-minute victory to avoid placing 5% tariffs on goods imported from Mexico in exchange for Mexico’s promise to do more to stop the flow of migrants through its country to the southern U.S. border. As it turned out, everything Mexican officials agreed to already had been negotiated months before, according to The New York Times.
Nevertheless, Trump continued tweeting about the so-called deal throughout the weekend, criticizing “[a]nother false report in the Failing @nytimes.”
“We have been trying to get some of these Border Actions for a long time, as have other administrations, but were not able to get them, or get them in full, until our signed agreement with Mexico,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. He bizarrely claimed that there now would be “great cooperation between Mexico & the USA, something that didn’t exist for decades.”
Trump also alluded to an agreement that wasn’t included in the joint declaration made public by the State Department on Friday, which he said would “be announced at the appropriate time.”
That may have been a reference to a previous tweet in all-caps that no one could figure out, including Mexican officials. Trump claimed on Saturday that Mexico had agreed to “immediately begin buying large quantities” of agricultural goods “from our great patriot farmers.”
But there’s no mention of Mexico buying more U.S. farm products in the joint declaration. And Bloomberg reported that three Mexican officials were unaware of any additional agreements. Agricultural trade wasn’t even discussed during the three-day negotiations, they said.
Neither the State Department nor the White House responded to questions about Trump’s claims about agricultural goods.
Mexico is already a large buyer of U.S. farm goods, including corn, soybeans, pork and dairy products. It had given no indication of attempting to find alternative suppliers during the standoff over Trump’s proposed steep tariffs on Mexican goods.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in May forecast U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico in the current fiscal year at $19.7 billion, about 14% of total U.S. farm exports and up from $18.8 billion in fiscal 2018. Mexico is second only to Canada as a market for U.S. farm goods.
The report also noted that the Mexican government isn’t even structured to buy and distribute food products or farm equipment.
So what gives?
One additional development is reported at the end of Bloomberg’s story: The Trump campaign used the announcement of the agreement with Mexico to fundraise. “His campaign sent out a ‘donate now’ email that read in part, ‘Art of the Deal! Mexico has agreed to help END ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. Promises Made. Promises Kept,’” Bloomberg reported.
Art of the deal, indeed.