The Slatest

Mexican Ambassador to U.S. Appears to Contradict Trump’s Claim of Agriculture Deal

Martha Bárcena Coqui.
Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Martha Bárcena Coqui attends a press conference with the Mexican delegation negotiating tariffs with U.S. officials on June 3 at the Mexican embassy in Washington. Eric Baradat/Getty Images

A day after Mexico and the United States released a joint statement announcing a series of steps on border security to stave off threatened tariffs on Mexican imports, President Donald Trump said the agreement included a promise by Mexico to buy more agricultural goods from the United States. “MEXICO HAS AGREED TO IMMEDIATELY BEGIN BUYING LARGE QUANTITIES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT FROM OUR GREAT PATRIOT FARMERS!” Trump wrote in an all-caps tweet on Saturday. He then retweeted the message on Sunday. But it doesn’t seem like Mexico really knows what he’s talking about.

In an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation, Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S., Martha Bárcena Coqui, took pains not to outright contradict Trump. But her answers made it pretty clear that no such deal was signed. “It is our understanding that without tariffs and with USMCA ratification, there will be an increased rate, both in agricultural products and manufacturing products,” she said. She was asked a total of three times to clarify whether there was a deal, and she demurred every time, choosing to change the focus away from a particular agreement to general talk about trade.

CBS first wrote that the ambassador had contradicted the president, but Bárcena objected to that characterization. “I did not contradict the president of the USA @realDonaldTrump .I just explained that with no tariffs and the USMCA ratification the trade in agricultural products will increase dramatically,” she wrote on Twitter. “Mexico is already a big buyer of USA agricultural products and this trend will continue.”

Parsing language aside, it isn’t exactly surprising that no one can point to a specific deal, considering that experts had raised questions about the supposed agreement from the beginning. Three Mexican officials had told Bloomberg that agricultural trade wasn’t even discussed during the three days of negotiations in Washington that led to the joint declaration that was published late Friday. Even the suggestion that Mexico could simply decide to increase purchases seems suspect considering the country “has no state-owned agricultural conglomerate to buy food products or handle distribution, or a government program that could buy farm equipment for delivery to producers,” notes Bloomberg.