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Trump to impose tariffs on Mexican goods over illegal immigration

Brendan Smialowski, AFP | US President Donald Trump places his hand on his heart as he listens to the National Anthem being played during the 2019 graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy May 30, 2019, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

President Donald Trump dramatically announced Thursday that the US will impose a 5% tariff on all Mexican goods starting on June 10 until illegal immigration across the southern border is stopped.

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Trump said in a statement that the tariffs would start at 5% on June 10, then go to 10% on July 1, 15% on August 1, 20% on September 1 and go up to October 1 on 25% unless Mexico takes action.

Trump's move is a dramatic escalation in his battle to control illegal immigration that has increased despite his efforts to build a border wall and other such migration policies.

FRANCE 24's Philip Crowther reports from Washington

US officials said 80,000 people are currently being held in custody, with an average of 4,500 arriving every day.

"If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the tariffs will be removed," Trump said.

‘We will overcome,’ says Mexican president

Trump’s ultimatum has posed the the biggest foreign policy test to date for Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who during his six months in power has consistently sought to deflect the US president's barbs and avoid embroiling himself in a confrontation.

"I tell all Mexicans to have faith, we will overcome this attitude of the US government, they will make rectifications because the Mexican people don't deserve to be treated in the way being attempted," Lopez Obrador told reporters at his regular morning news conference.

Lopez Obrador said he believed Trump would understand that tariffs were not the way to resolve the matter, but urged Mexicans to unite around his government to face the challenge.

Such a plan would deliver a heavy blow to Mexico's economy, which relies heavily on exports to the US of goods from avocados and tequila to televisions and cars made by companies such as Ford and Nissan. Mexico sends around 80 percent of its exports to the United States.

FRANCE 24's Ioan Grillo reports from Mexico City

The Mexican president also ordered his foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, to travel to Washington on Friday.

Ebrard will attempt to convince the US government that Trump's measures were in neither country's interest, and show that Mexico was making progress containing migration, said Lopez Obrador.

Trump said he was acting under the powers granted to him by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

In a tweet posted Friday, Trump said Mexico can “easily fix” problems with immigration and called on America’s southern neighbour to "finally do what must be done".

Trump election pledge

His campaign platform in the 2016 election was on cracking down on illegal immigration, but he has been frustrated that the flow has increased in recent months.

"Mexico’s passive cooperation in allowing this mass incursion constitutes an emergency and extraordinary threat to the national security and economy of the United States," Trump said in the statement.

"Mexico has very strong immigration laws and could easily halt the illegal flow of migrants, including by returning them to their home countries," he said.

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, asked in a conference call with reporters which products from Mexico could be affected by the tariffs, said: "All of them.”

Shares slumped as banks and traders mulled the latest development in Trump’s various trade wars, bringing with it uncertainty about the future and the possibility of a global recession.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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