Top Trump economic advisor hopeful on US-Mexico tariff talks

Washington (AFP) –


A top economics advisor to President Donald Trump said Monday he is hopeful on the outcome of talks with Mexico on immigration and the threat of US trade sanctions.

"Talks have the potential to be extremely fruitful," Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters.

He said that Trump is "100 percent not" bluffing in his threat to impose five percent tariffs on all Mexican goods from next week if Mexico does not stop the flow of mostly Central American migrants up to the US southern border.

A Mexican delegation is in Washington to negotiate over steps to reduce the number of migrants and avoid tariffs. Trump says that if he is not satisfied, the first tariffs would take effect June 10, then rise incrementally to as high as 25 percent on all goods.

Hassett, who is due to leave the White House around the end of June, denied that the row will hurt the US economy or scuttle the completed, but still not ratified North American free trade agreement known as the USMCA.

"The tariffs on Mexico are a very big deal for the Mexican economy and a small deal for the US economy," Hassett said, dismissing criticism in Congress that the president is being reckless.

Hassett also said he sees little risk of the US economy ending its strong performance under Trump. He predicted healthy results when this week's employment figures are published.

"The thing that makes me still optimistic about a strong year is that job growth and wage growth are still strong and when wage growth is strong, consumption follows," he said.

"Based on the data ..., the probability of recession is about zero."

Regarding the much bigger issue of trade with China, Hassett did not rule out a resolution to the apparently deepening dispute at the G20 summit in Japan at the end of this month, when Trump is expected to meet Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

"The president's a great negotiator," Hassett said.