Mexico eyes border, migration as leverage in talks with Trump

Mexico aims to defend free trade with the United States by using border security and immigration policy to gain leverage in talks with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump after he takes office next month, senior officials say.

Reuters reported that to defuse Trump’s threats to disrupt trade and investment, policymakers say Mexico aims to strike a balance between hearing out his concerns over illegal immigration and U.S. jobs, and adopting a firm posture to protect its own economic interests.

Mexico wants security, immigration and management of the U.S.-Mexican border to be on the table alongside trade when it sits down to talk to the Trump administration, a person familiar with the government’s thinking said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

That could translate into Mexico offering to reinforce its northern border to curb drug smuggling and migrants, said one former high-level official familiar with discussions in Mexico.

It might also mean giving the United States a bigger part to play in securing Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, where many thousands of illegal immigrants from the rest of Latin America pass through every year on their way to the United States, a senior Mexican government official said.

After Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, Mexico needs to keep the discussion with Washington as broad as possible, said Victor Giorgana, a congressman in President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

“It can’t just be about one issue, as that would put us at a disadvantage,” said Giorgana, who chairs the lower house foreign relations committee.

Trump outraged Mexico during the campaign by accusing it of sending rapists and drug runners north, and by vowing to make it pay for a border wall to keep out illegal immigrants.

Though bilateral discussions with Trump’s team are already under way via informal channels, it is still unclear exactly what stance the Republican will take as president.

No date has been set for formal talks, but Mexico’s government has signaled its readiness to engage with Trump.

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