President Trump could decide over the weekend to delay his plan to impose tariffs on Mexican imports if negotiations continue to go well over addressing the surge of migrants crossing the southern border, a senior White House official said Friday.
“There’s a long way to go still, that’s the bottom line,” Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Pence, told reporters at the White House, adding that the administration plans to issue a “legal notification” Friday in advance of the imposition of 5 percent tariffs Monday.
“But I think that there is the ability, if negotiations continue to go well, that the president can turn that off at some point over the weekend,” Short said.
Short said that the negotiations taking place in Washington had been “wholly insufficient” Wednesday but that the White House was “more encouraged” as of Thursday.
Trump is scheduled to return to Washington from a trip to Europe late Friday afternoon.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said “our position hasn’t changed,” adding: “Tariffs are going to take effect on Monday.”
She also noted that talks with Mexican officials have been positive.
“They’ve made a lot of progress,” Sanders said. “The meetings have gone well, but as of now we’re still on track for tariffs on Monday.”
The Washington Post reported Thursday that U.S. and Mexican officials are discussing the outlines of a deal that would dramatically increase Mexico’s immigration enforcement efforts and give the United States far more latitude to deport Central Americans seeking asylum.
The potential deal was described by a U.S. official and a Mexican official who cautioned that the accord is not final and that Trump might not accept it.
Faced with Trump’s threat to impose steadily rising tariffs on goods imported from Mexico beginning Monday, Mexican officials have pledged to deploy as many as 6,000 national guard troops to the area of the country’s border with Guatemala, a show of force they say will immediately reduce the number of Central Americans heading north toward the U.S. border.
The plan, a sweeping overhaul of asylum rules across the region, would require Central American migrants to seek refuge in the first country they enter after leaving their homeland, the two officials said. For Guatemalans, that would be Mexico. For migrants from Honduras and El Salvador, that would be Guatemala, whose government held talks last week with acting Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan.
Any migrants who made it to the U.S. border generally would be deported to the appropriate third country. And any migrants who express a fear of death or torture in their home country would be subjected to a tougher screening standard by U.S. asylum officers more likely to result in rejection.
David J. Lynch, Nick Miroff and Kevin Sieff contributed to this report.