Donald Trump says Mexico agreed to start buying more from American farmers. Mexico says it didn’t.
After American and Mexican negotiators agreed on steps to reduce the flood of asylum seekers at the border, President Donald Trump took a victory lap on Twitter.
"The tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended," Trump tweeted June 7. "Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border."
The next day, Trump said there was even more to celebrate.
"Mexico has agreed to immediately begin buying large quantities of agricultural product from our great patriot farmers!" Trump tweeted June 8.
Trump’s remarks are questionable. There is no outward sign that any agreement of that sort came out of the talks. Mexico said it didn’t agree to "immediately begin" to do anything different than it has done all along. It buys a lot from American farmers and that won’t change.
Because negotiations happen behind closed doors, we won’t rate this on the Truth-O-Meter, for now. But here’s what we know about details of the deal.
At a morning news conference June 10 in Mexico City, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard was asked if the understanding on immigration included the agricultural deal Trump had mentioned.
"There is no agreement of any kind," Ebrard said. "It is an immigration agreement. There’s no commercial (element) in this document."
Ebrard’s statement clarified what Mexico’s ambassador to the United States had said a day earlier. Asked on Face the Nation about an agricultural side agreement, Martha Bárcena Coqui neither confirmed nor denied its existence.
"It is our understanding that without tariffs and with United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement ratification, there will be an increased rates (trade), both in agricultural products and manufactured products," Bárcena said.
Bárcena agreed that she was talking about the normal course of trade. Later, she tweeted she wasn’t contradicting Trump.
"I just explained that with no tariffs and the USMCA ratification the trade in agricultural products will increase dramatically. Mexico is already a big buyer of USA agricultural products and this trend will continue," she said.
Ebrard noted that without the threatened tariffs, the economies of both countries would grow faster, and along with that would come more purchases by Mexico of all American goods, including farm products.
Mexico is America’s second largest market for agricultural goods. Sales to Mexico reached $19 billion in 2018.
Jonas Oxgaard, agricultural industry analyst at Sanford Bernstein expressed skepticism about any sort of special deal. He noted that Mexico has no state-sponsored agricultural import program.
"It’s not possible for the Mexican government to sign a deal like that," Oxgaard said.
Trade specialist David Orden, director of the Global Issues Initiative at Virginia Tech, said sales to Mexico have been looking promising since a few weeks ago when Trump ended the steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico. Until then, Mexico had counterpunched with its own tariffs on American goods, including pork.
"Mexico is a huge market for our agricultural products," Orden said. "The retaliatory tariffs offsetting the U.S. ones on steel and aluminum have come off so ag exports should pick up on that account."
But that has nothing to do with the latest negotiations.
The State Department summary of the immigration control agreement made no mention of a separate agricultural agreement. We asked the State Department, and the press office referred us to the White House. We sent the White House press office the statement out of Mexico. We did not hear back.
Trump followed his tweet about a farm deal with a tweet that referenced "some things not mentioned in yesterday’s press release, one in particular, were agreed upon. That will be announced at the appropriate time."
He did not elaborate on what he had in mind.
We do know that in the hours before negotiators came to terms, farms sales were on Trump’s mind. He tweeted "If we are able to make the deal with Mexico, & there is a good chance that we will, they will begin purchasing Farm & Agricultural products at very high levels, starting immediately."
The White House had several days to respond to news organizations that raised doubts about the existence of a side agreement on farm sales.
It has yet to provide any facts to support Trump’s tweet.
The most generous interpretation is that the absence of tariffs avoids a scenario that would undercut current multi-billion dollar purchases by Mexico. Today, Mexico is America’s second largest buyer of agricultural products. With the immgration agreement, nothing changes.
Journalists in the Mexico bureau of Telemundo, a PolitiFact partner, provided reporting for this fact-check.