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U.S. to help improve commercial traffic on border - Mexican minister

Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard addresses the audience after signing an agreement on the provision of guidance and technical assistance in the Ayotzinapa case with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (not pictured), in Mexico City, Mexico April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Luis Cortes

MERIDA, Mexico (Reuters) - Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Friday that U.S. officials have pledged to help improve the flow of commercial traffic across the two neighbours’ shared border, a move that should ease recent bottlenecks harming industrial trade.

A slowdown along the U.S.-Mexico border began late last month after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to close the border if Mexico did not halt a surge of people seeking asylum in the United States.

The Trump administration subsequently moved several hundred border agents to handle the influx of migrants, which had triggered long delays for cross-border traffic because of a staffing shortage.

Following meetings with senior U.S. officials on Friday in the Mexican city of Merida, Ebrard shared the assurances he was given that the delays at the border will be eased.

“They’ll do what is possible so that (cross-border traffic) will normalize as soon as possible,” said Ebrard when asked what U.S. officials had told him.

The discussions, Ebrard added, touched on “removing obstacles to free trade, and the agile movement of goods and people on the border.”

As soon as Monday, the U.S. customs and border authority plans to send officers from the Canadian border and other parts of the country to the busy border crossing that straddles El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Data from border business association Index Juarez showed that losses from nearly 30 exporting companies in Ciudad Juarez totalled some $15 million over the past week.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by David Alire Garcia and James Dalgleish