US-Mexico Tensions Rise

US-Mexico Tensions Rise
US-Mexico Tensions Rise

A diplomatic rift between the United States and Mexico widened, as Donald Trump’s administration suggested taxing imports from the southern neighbor to fund a border wall and Mexico’s president scrapped a US visit.

Trump had been scheduled to receive Enrique Pena Nieto at the White House on Tuesday, AFP reported.

Instead, the Republican president is managing a foreign policy spat with a normally friendly nation and key trade partner during his first week in office.

The escalating war of words over who would pay for the proposed border wall—a central pledge made by Trump during his successful presidential campaign—hit the breaking point on Thursday.

“If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting,” Trump said on Twitter in the morning.

Under pressure at home to cancel the trip, Pena Nieto, who had good relations with former US president Barack Obama, tweeted later that he had informed the White House that he will “not attend the working meeting” next week.

“Mexico reiterates its willingness to work with the United States to reach agreements in both nations’ interests,” he said.

Hours later, Trump told Republican lawmakers at a retreat in Philadelphia that the cancellation was by mutual agreement.

“Unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless, and I want to go a different route. I have no choice,” he said.

White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said the “lines of communications” would remain open and Washington hoped to “schedule something in the future.”

 Big Price Tag

But in a move that is sure to increase tensions, Spicer said Trump could fund construction of the wall—meant to keep out illegal immigrants—by slapping a 20% tax on goods from Mexico.

He later specified that it was “one idea that gets it done real easy” and that it could be part of an overall tax reform package.

Trump signed an order on Wednesday for work to begin on building a wall along the 3,200-kilometer border.

During the campaign, Trump threatened to tap into remittances that Mexican migrants send home, which last year amounted to $25 billion.

Republican leaders announced on Thursday they would try to carve out $12-15 billion worth of US taxpayer money for the project.

Speaking at the Mexican Embassy in Washington on Thursday evening, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said the idea of his country paying for the border wall was out of the question.

“The fact that it is being said that Mexico should pay for the wall is something that is simply not negotiable,” Videgaray told reporters during a press conference.


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