Trump forces Mexico into an agreement under the threat of more tariffs.

The global trade war initiated by Donald Trump reached an unprecedented level of intensity with the announcement that as of tomorrow, the United States would impose a 5% tax on all imports from Mexico. That figure would gradually increase to 25% over the next few months “until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied,” the leader announced via his preferred diplomatic medium, Twitter. The Mexican administration immediately sent a large group of officials to Washington, headed by Secretary of State Marcelo Ebrard, to try to defuse the biggest crisis between the two countries in many years. After many hours at the negotiating table, yesterday at the break of dawn, an agreement was reached: Mexico will reinforce measures to control migration in exchange for having the tax lifted.

It is widely believed that resorting to tariffs and other trade barriers is generally a bad way to resolve commercial disputes between countries. But to apply these measures to an issue as complex and sensitive as illegal immigration, which has nothing to do with trade, and to force a change of policy in another country, is an irrational move conceivable only in the Trump universe.

The Mexican government was surprised as much by the announcement itself as by the peremptory delivery of the terms. However, the root cause of this issue is nothing new – the problem that both countries face in managing the flow of hundreds of thousands of Central American immigrants heading north, fleeing the misery and violence from decades of abandonment that corrupt, inefficient governments have done nothing but aggravate.

Paradoxically, however, this has been one of the issues the Mexican administration has been anticipating. In the barely six months in which he has held the position, Ebrard has designed his own ambitious Marshall Plan for Central America, aimed at attracting investment to the region, encouraging economic growth and job creation, and attacking the underlying causes of the migratory exodus. Despite an initial surge, and the official welcoming discourse of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexican authorities have clamped down hard. Deportations of Central American immigrants have tripled since Ebrard took up the role.

If they had taken effect, taxes on Mexican imports would have threatened both economies and, in turn, had global repercussions. Trump's reelection campaign is lined up for this month. There is great fear, on both sides of the border, that this has been the first act of the campaign.