Mexico earmarks $50 million to back migrants in US

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's president said Monday his country will spend about $50 million to hire lawyers for migrants in the United States facing deportation.

The money will be channeled through Mexican consulates in the U.S. and also go to outreach programs to defend Mexicans' rights.

President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a video message to the nation that he had spoken to U.S. President Donald Trump for an hour by phone Friday. He said they reached no agreements, but found space for further dialogue between their respective representatives.

That would have been one day after Pena Nieto abruptly cancelled a planned visit to Washington this week. The clash was provoked by Trump's insistence that Mexico would pay for his proposed border wall perhaps through a tax on imports from Mexico.

Pena Nieto said he emphasized to Trump that the relationship between the two countries must recognize Mexico's sovereignty, dignity and independence as well as their friendship and cooperation.

"I will inform Mexicans of the advances," Pena Nieto said.

Earlier Monday, Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray said the effort to bolster consular services in the U.S. "isn't about obstructing the enforcement of the law in the United States, or much less opposing law enforcement."

"We are going to focus the money on one fundamental objective, which is the defense of the rights of Mexicans. This means legal advice, informational campaigns, the hiring of lawyers where it is necessary."

Videgaray also said Mexico understands "it will be necessary to make some changes" to the North American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. and Canada. U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to re-negotiate NAFTA.

But he said Mexico won't accept a return to protectionist policies such as import quotas or tariffs.

He mentioned including things such as e-commerce, which didn't exist when NAFTA took effect in 1994. Videgaray did not specify what other changes Mexico would be open to, but did say the country wanted "integrated negotiations, where all topics will be discussed and the dialogue won't be limited to commercial aspects, for example, but also include issues like immigration and security."

Along with renegotiating NAFTA, Trump has pledged to increase the deportations of people who are in the United States illegally, positions that have caused major frictions with Mexico.

Videgaray said Mexico wants to diversify its trade. At present, about 80 percent of Mexico's exports go to the United States.

He said Mexico wants to improve trade with Latin American countries, Japan and especially South Korea.

Mexico also wants to negotiate free trade agreements with Brazil and Argentina and attract foreign investment from China, the foreign relations secretary said.