by WorldTribune Staff, February 26, 2018
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto called off his tentatively planned visit to the White House after a phone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump in which Trump refused to yield on his stance that Mexico pay for a proposed border wall.
During a 50-minute conversation on Feb. 20, Pena Nieto reportedly asked Trump to publicly confirm Mexico’s insistence that it will not pay for the wall. Trump, however, would not cave to the Mexican leader’s request, officials familiar with the call told The Washington Post.
Trump “lost his temper” during the call, one Mexican official told the Post.
Trump was said to have been “exasperated” and “frustrated,” saying that the Mexican president’s expectation was unreasonable, U.S. officials said, according to the Post.
Pena Nieto had not confirmed his White House visit, but it was expected to take place sometime in the coming weeks.
In the early days of his administration, Trump had told Pena Nieto he didn’t want to meet with him because he “cannot live” with Pena Nieto publicly saying Mexico would not pay for the wall.
In a January 2017 phone call, Trump urged Peña Nieto to say, “We will work it out” if either was asked about payments for the border wall, according to a transcript obtained by The Washington Post last August.
“The fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to,” Trump said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period, and the reason I say they are going to pay for the wall is because Mexico has made a fortune out of the stupidity of U.S. trade representatives.”
Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States, told the Post that Trump has “painted” the relationship between the two countries “into a corner” with his insistence that Mexico would pay for the wall.
“Even from the get-go, the idea of Mexico paying for the wall was never going to fly,” Sarukhan said. “[Trump’s] relationship with Mexico isn’t strategically driven. It’s not even business; it’s personal, driven by motivations and triggers, and that’s a huge problem. It could end up with the U.S. asking itself, ‘Who lost Mexico?’ ”
Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray has said the U.S.-Mexico relationship is “closer” under Trump than in previous administrations.
“I think in many ways the relationship today is more fluid,” Videgaray said earlier this month in Mexico City alongside U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “It’s closer than it was with previous administrations, which might be surprising to some people, but that’s a fact of life.”