Mexican president cancels meeting with Donald Trump over wall

Enrique Peña Nieto and Donald Trump engage in war of words on Twitter on issue

Hours after US president Donald Trump vowed to make Mexico pay for his border wall between the nations, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto again rejected Mr Trump’s demand that Mexico pay for it. Video: Reuters

 

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Thursday he had scrapped plans to meet Donald Trump next week after the US president tweeted Mexico should cancel the meeting if it was not prepared to pay for his proposed border wall.

“This morning we informed the White House that I will not attend the work meeting planned for next Tuesday with the POTUS,” Pena Nieto said on Twitter, referring to Trump.

“Mexico reiterates its willingness to work with the United States to reach accords that favor both nations.”

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Trump issued a series of messages on the issue on Twitter. “The US has a $60 billion trade deficit with Mexico,” Mr Trump wrote. He described “a one-sided deal from the beginning of Nafta” and blamed the agreement for jobs and company losses. “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”

On Wednesday, Mr Peña Nieto again rejected Mr Trump’s demand that Mexico pay for the wall.

In a video statement, Mr Peña Nieto said that he regrets and rejects the immigration orders signed by Mr Trump on Wednesday to build the “impassable physical barrier” along the 3,145km border because “Mexico does not believe in walls.”

The new US president repeated his assertion, so popular among his supporters during the presidential campaign, that he would build the wall “in months” and that Mexico would pay for it.

The wall would be funded from government funds but Mexico would later reimburse the US “perhaps in a complicated form”, Mr Trump told ABC News in his first interview at the White House.

“I have said time and time again, Mexico will not pay for any wall,” Mr Peña Nieto said in his address recorded in response to Mr Trump’s orders.

“Mexico reaffirms its friendship with the people of the United States and its willingness to reach agreements within its government.”

The Mexican president stopped short of cancelling the scheduled meeting, saying that he was consulting with his officials in Washington on “the next steps.”

He has come under pressure from lawmakers at home to pull out of the meeting and a senior government official told the Associated Press that he was “considering” calling off the trip to the US.

The wall could jeopardise Mr Trump’s proposed renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, which is due to be discussed by the leaders at their meeting.

Mexico’s economic minister Ildefonso Guajardo has warned that the country would “absolutely” walk away from the trade talks if the US pressed Mexico to pay for the border wall through remittances sent back by Mexicans living in the US to individuals at home.

“There are very clear red lines that must be drawn from the start,” he said.

Mr Trump repeatedly pledged during the presidential campaign to build the wall along the border with Mexico to stop the flow of crime, drugs and illegal immigration across the country’s southern border in a lightning rod political issue that fired up his supporters and alienated his opponents.

‘A nation without borders is not a nation’

He followed through on that election promise, the signature policy of his campaign, on Wednesday by signing two orders directing officials to start the planning for the wall and a crackdown on undocumented immigrants living in the US.

“A nation without borders is not a nation,” he declared.

The new Republican president proclaimed that the country was “in the middle of a crisis on our southern border” with an “unprecedented surge” of illegal immigrants from Central America.

The Trump administration vowed to round up so-called undocumented immigrants in the US who have committed crimes and return them to their countries of origin.

Mr Peña Nieto pledged during his video address to protect Mexicans in the US who make up the bulk of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.

“Where there is a Mexican migrant at risk that requires our support, your country should be there,” he said.

“Our communities are not alone. The Mexican government will provide them with the legal advice, which guarantees the protection they require.”

Research has shown that most immigrants are law-abiding and that more Mexican immigrants have returned to the US than migrated to the country since the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.

A report by the American Immigration Council, a non-profit group based in Washington, published in July 2015 showed that between 1990 and 2013 the foreign-born share of the US population grew from 7.9 per cent to 13.1 per cent of the population and the number of undocumented immigrants tripled to 11.2 million and that the violent crime rate declined 48 per cent and property crime fell by 41 per cent.

Mr Trump is considering signing a presidential executive order to stop accepting Syrian refugees and suspending new visas to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The draft order, obtained by the Associated Press, shows that the president intends to suspend the country’s refugee programme for 120 and to prohibit citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from obtaining US visas for at least 30 days.

“Our country has a lot of problems… they’re serious problems. We don’t need more,” Mr Trump told ABC News host David Muir in his interview broadcast on Wednesday night.

Asked whether he believes his order would stir further anger in Muslim communities, Mr Trump replied: ‘The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What? You think this is gonna cause a little more anger? The world is an angry place.”

Additional reporting: Bloomberg