Both sides claimed headway in a lengthy meeting Wednesday, but Trump said a "lot of progress" must still be made to halt the 5% tax on all Mexican goods that he has threatened to impose Monday as part of an escalating tariff regime opposed by many in his own Republican Party.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders issued a statement Thursday saying Trump's position "has not changed, and we are still moving forward with tariffs at this time."
The frantic, last-minute talks underscore Trump's chaotic approach even when decisions have enormous economic consequences for both the U.S. and its closest allies. Trump has embraced tariffs as a tool he can use as leverage against other countries, ignoring the potential harm to American consumers and manufacturers.
Traveling in Europe, Trump told reporters that negotiators had made "a lot of progress," but continued to play coy.
It remained unclear whether any deal could be struck with Trump out of the country. Many in Washington still expect the tariffs to go into effect barring a major new concession from Mexico, though lawmakers who have been in talks with both U.S. and Mexican officials said they were hopeful a deal could be reached to satisfy Trump, or at least delay the tariffs' implementation.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard spent several hours at the State Department Thursday morning, while Trump's legal counsel and other Mexican aides met at the White House Thursday afternoon.
Ebrard told reporters as he left the State Department that progress was being made and that he was likely to return following consultations at the embassy.
"This afternoon I will be able to share a more concrete vision of where we are," he said, adding: "We are advancing. We are going to return later to discuss several points."
His spokesman, Roberto Velasco, later tweeted that "Options continue to be explored," but that a deal had not been reached.
"The stance of the United States is focused on measures of migratory control, ours on development. We have not yet reached an agreement but we continue to negotiate," he said.
White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp said in an interview that conversations were continuing but "it looks like we're moving toward this path of tariffs because what we've seen so far is that the Mexicans, what they're proposing, is simply not enough."
"The talks are ongoing, progress is being made," he said, adding that Trump will "stand strong until Mexico and the Congress take the action that is necessary."
During Wednesday's talks, the gulf between the countries was clear as Mexico offered small, thus far undisclosed concessions, and the U.S. demanded major action. A senior administration official said the U.S. once again pressed Mexico to step up enforcement on its southern border and to enter into a "safe third country agreement" that would make it difficult for those who enter Mexico from other countries to claim asylum in the U.S. Mexico has long resisted that request.
But Mexico surprised U.S. officials Thursday when they returned to the negotiating table and said they would commit to what Pence had requested, according to the official, who cautioned that significant questions about timing and implementation remain.
Beyond Trump and several White House advisers, few in the administration believe imposing tariffs is a good idea, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations. Those people worry about the negative economic consequences for Americans and believe the tariffs — which would likely spark retaliatory taxes on U.S. exports — would also hurt the administration politically. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Republicans in Congress have warned the White House that they are ready to stand up to the president to try to block his tariffs, which they worry would spike costs to U.S. consumers, harm the economy and imperil a major pending U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal .
Democratic House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said he will introduce a resolution of disapproval to stop the tariffs if Trump goes through with his threat, panning it as presidential "overreach."
Trump has gone after those who have criticized the tariff threat. A "lot of people, senators included — they have no idea what they're talking about when it comes to tariffs," Trump said. "They have no — absolutely no idea."
Trump routinely mischaracterizes who pays for tariffs, wrongly insisting it is the countries he levies them on rather than U.S. importers and often American consumers who face higher prices when costs are passed along.
Without a deal, the first tariffs — 5% taxes on imports from Mexico, eventually increasing to 25% — are to go into effect next Monday. Trump has been seething for months about the spike in migrant crossings and has proposed increasingly drastic action, including completely sealing the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday that U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions of migrants illegally crossing the border hit the highest level in more than a decade in May: 132,887 apprehensions, including a record 84,542 adults and children traveling together and 11,507 children traveling alone.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Paul Wiseman, Lisa Mascaro, Darlene Superville and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.