It was more than just another campaign pledge made by then-GOP candidate Donald J. Trump. It was a serious thing he proposed: building a new wall all along the U.S.-Mexico border, and making Mexico pay for it, one way or another.
This week, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico was scheduled to meet with Trump to discuss a range of issues regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – which he wants to renegotiate with Mexico City – and the border wall. But after Trump continued to insist that the wall’s costs would eventually be reimbursed by Mexico, Nieto pulled out of the meeting, Reuters reported Thursday.
The cancellation deepens the animosity between both countries, but the Trump administration nevertheless left a door open for rapprochement. White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said the United States was keeping the lines of communication with Mexico open, and is currently attempting to reschedule the meeting. (RELATED: Check in at Trump.news to see what the president will do next on this issue.)
Nieto was Trump-like in his response; he used his Twitter account to fire off a verbal salvo after Trump repeated his intentions to have Mexico pay for a border wall he authorized via executive action earlier this week, during an interview Wednesday with ABC News. The continued insistence by Trump produced several calls within the Mexican government for Nieto to call off the meeting, which was set for next week.
Earlier Thursday, Trump said via Twitter that his Mexican counterpart should cancel next week’s meeting if Mexico refuses to pay for the wall. Trump has said that the wall is an integral part of his overall strategy to curb illegal immigration, shore up border security and cut down on the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S. For its part, however, Mexico has long insisted it won’t pay for any wall.
“We have informed the White House that I will not attend the working meeting planned for next Tuesday with @POTUS,” Nieto tweeted. “Mexico reiterates its willingness to work with the United States to reach agreements that favor both nations.”
Trump has said he favors continued trade with Mexico, but that the NAFTA agreement is unfair to the U.S. and he wants it renegotiated.
On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order authorizing the construction of the wall, the same day that Mexico’s foreign minister took part in talks with Trump administration officials in a bid to improve ties.
The Mexican government viewed Trump’s candidacy warily for months after it began in the summer of 2015, as he continued to make pledges about the wall and the Mexican government paying for it. Initially, Mexican leaders – like other world leaders – dismissed Trump’s campaign as a joke and a sideshow, and even after he won the GOP nomination, continued to take him less than seriously.
Then he won the Nov. 8 election and leaders have been scrambling ever since to figure out what he is really about and how serious he really is when it comes to the promises he made during his campaign.
Turns out he’s not backing down in the least, and no one really expected that. (RELATED: How are Trump’s immigration policies affecting National Security? Find out at NationalSecurity.news)
Still, trade ties are in the balance here. The vast majority of Mexican trade – 80 percent – is with its northern neighbor. But that means that there is huge market for Mexican goods and produce in the U.S., so it’s likely both sides will have to find compromises in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, Trump has vowed that his administration will renegotiate NAFTA, and that he would place high tariffs on American companies that have moved jobs south of the border and want to import their goods back into the U.S.
Mexican financial and economic experts obviously believe that the U.S. has the upper hand; the Mexican peso continued its sharp slide against the U.S. dollar on Thursday following Nieto’s announcement. The Mexican currency has dropped steadily since Trump won the election and in the face of his continued stances on trade and immigration.
“The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers … of jobs and companies lost. If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting,” Trump tweeted.
GOP leaders in Congress are moving ahead with funding the wall, which is expected to cost between $12 billion and $15 billion. Asked about the fraying U.S.-Mexico relations, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said simply, “I think we’ll be fine.”