Trump Retreats on Threat to Close Mexican Border, Offering a ‘One-Year Warning’ – The New York Times

White House officials had already been vague about the president’s plans to follow through on his threat. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, told reporters this week that Mr. Trump “is not working on a specific timeline.” And on Tuesday, during a meeting with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, the president said, “I haven’t made that intention known,” when asked specifically about his threat to close the border this week.

Talking to reporters at the White House on Thursday, Mr. Trump said he was going to either close the southern border with America’s third-largest trading partner or “tariff the cars.” He said he would “probably start off with the tariffs.”

But tariffs on cars coming across the southern border would largely drive up costs for American and European automakers — and their customers. Most of the cars and car parts coming from Mexico are intended for multinational automakers, including American car companies like General Motors and Ford.

It is also unclear the degree to which Mr. Trump could impose auto tariffs under the terms of his newly renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement. While the new deal, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, has yet to be ratified, it includes a provision that exempts Mexican cars from tariffs as long as they stay below a certain level of imports. Only imports above that cap, which is quite high, would be eligible for a levy, the agreement states.

The president is scheduled to travel to Calexico, Calif., on Friday for a photo op at a newly fortified section of the border.

While Mr. Trump backed off his threats to immediately close the southern border, the Department of Homeland Security has reallocated officials working at the ports of entry to handle a surge of unauthorized crossings by large groups of migrants, Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, said on Monday. The move has resulted in long delays and increased traffic at ports of entry.

Ms. Nielsen has also permitted Customs and Border Protection to reallocate as many as 2,000 officials from the ports. The move comes as more Central American families have crossed the border in recent months in search of asylum, leading to overflowing detention facilities and mass releases of migrants into cities along the border.

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