Mexican President Cancels Visit To U.S. After ‘Testy’ Phone Call With Trump About Border Wall

Mexico's President canceled a visit to the United States for the second time since Donald Trump became President due to a continued disagreement over who will pay for Trump's border wall.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has canceled a scheduled visit to the United States after a testy phone call with President Trump in which Trump once again brought up the absurd idea that Mexico would be paying for the border wall that was a cornerstone of her campaign for the Presidency:

Tentative plans for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to make his first visit to the White House to meet with President Trump were scuttled this week after a testy call between the two leaders ended in an impasse over Trump’s promised border wall, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.

Peña Nieto was eyeing an official trip to Washington this month or in March, but both countries agreed to call off the plan after Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of a border wall that the Mexican people widely consider offensive, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a confidential conversation.

Speaking by phone on Tuesday, Peña Nieto and Trump devoted a considerable portion of their roughly 50 minute conversation to the wall, and neither man would compromise his position.

One Mexican official said Trump “lost his temper.” But U.S. officials described him instead as being frustrated and exasperated, saying Trump believed it was unreasonable for Peña Nieto to expect him to back off his crowd-pleasing campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall.

Both accounts confirm it was Peña Nieto’s desire to avoid public embarrassment — and Trump’s unwillingness to provide that assurance — that proved to be the dealbreaker.

A physically slight man, Peña Nieto has been loath to put himself in an environment in which the more imposing Trump could play the bully. Peña Nieto’s style is exceedingly formal, and he is averse to verbal combat, making his carefully scripted public events the opposite of Trump’s often freewheeling appearances.

With Mexico heading into a July presidential election, any action by Peña Nieto that could be seen as kowtowing to Trump or buckling under U.S. pressure risks damaging the prospects for his Institutional Revolutionary Party.

The two presidents’ public posturing over the wall — Trump demands that Mexico pay for it; Peña Nieto insists that it will not — has harmed their personal relationship and jeopardized the alliance between their neighboring countries.

“The problem is that President Trump has painted himself, President Peña Nieto and the bilateral relationship into a corner,” said Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States. “Even from the get-go, the idea of Mexico paying for the wall was never going to fly. His 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?’ ”

Still, negotiations between their respective administrations continue apace on the North American Free Trade Agreement and other issues. And both governments have strived to portray their ties as strong and the exchanges between their leaders as smooth.

“We enjoy a great relationship with Mexico and the two administrations have been working for a year to deepen our cooperation across a range of issues including security, immigration, trade and economics,” Michael Anton, the top spokesman for Trump’s National Security Council, said in a statement.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray called the U.S.-Mexico relationship 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 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.

(…)

Earlier this month, a delegation of Mexican officials led by Videgaray met at the White House with senior adviser Jared Kushner — the president’s son-in-law, who is charged among other things with managing the U.S.-Mexico relationship — national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other Trump administration officials to work out the parameters for a Peña Nieto visit, officials said.

The Mexican officials left the Feb. 14 meeting believing they had an agreement with the U.S. side that Trump would not embarrass Peña Nieto by bringing up his desire for Mexico to fund the wall — a proposition Peña Nieto’s government considers humiliating.

One Mexican official describing his country’s position said, “You cannot talk about the bloody wall.” This official said Videgaray left Washington believing Trump would not broach the wall during Peña Nieto’s visit.

Trump and Peña Nieto made plans to speak by phone Feb. 20, and, assuming the call went well, their staffs would finalize an itinerary for the Mexican president’s White House visit.

But the call did not go smoothly, according to officials from both governments. Trump said he would not be bound by any such agreement and could not commit himself to not talking about the wall.

“That was a dealbreaker for us,” the Mexican official said, adding that Peña Nieto and his administration were concerned in particular about a reporter asking a question about funding for the wall at a news conference and Trump answering it.

Instead of announcing a date for a meeting in Washington, the statements issued by both governments summarizing the call were vague and said only that they had discussed their bilateral agenda on trade, security and migration issues. The statements also said the two presidents exchanged condolences for the high school gun massacre in Parkland, Fla., and the military helicopter accident in Jamiltepec, Oaxaca.

This isn’t the first time in Trump’s Presidency that a visit between the two men has been canceled over arguments about funding for Trump’s wall. Last January,  Peña Nieto canceled a planned visit to Washington after a phone call with Trump just a week into the Trump Administration. According to a report published in The Washington Post back then, Trump and Peña Nieto clashed over both the entire concept of constructing a wall on the border with Mexico and most especially on the rather absurd idea that Mexico would pay for that wall. Just days prior to this phone call, Trump reiterated his claim that Mexico would end up paying for the wall in an interview with ABC News even as Mexico’s President reaffirmed his pledge that his nation will not pay for the wall at all. Before that, Trump had clashed with the Mexican President over the issue when he visited Mexico City as a candidate back in the summer of 2016. The issue of funding came up at that time too, and Trump’s comments about the substance of his talks with Peña Nieto were perceived by many Mexicans as making their nation look weak and humiliated, which is one reason why public opinion about Trump in Mexico is so exceedingly negative.

The fact that President Nieto has canceled his trip for the second time in as many years. President Trump has been an exceedingly unpopular person in Mexico ever since he equated Mexican immigrants with rapists and criminals and accused the Mexican Government of deliberately sending criminals to the United States, a claim he made in the speech he gave in June 2015 when he announced his candidacy for President. When he later introduced the idea of constructing a border wall that Mexico would pay for, things only got worse. Nieto and other Mexican politicians, including perhaps most loudly former President Vincente Fox, responded by denouncing Trump and stating repeatedly that Mexico will never pay for the wall. As it was, Nieto, who was already unpopular at home, faced considerable political blowback and pressure from both his own party and the opposition to denounce Trump and what Mexicans perceived as insults to their national pride and their country. With an election coming up later this year in Mexico, Nieto remains under pressure to stand up to Trump even though he isn’t on the ballot due to being term-limited. As a result, it’s no surprise that Neito canceled his visit.

As I noted on Twitter this morning, Mexico and Canada are perhaps the two nations in the world with whom the United States has had the best diplomatic relationships with over the course of the past several decades at least. This has been due both to the fact that we share long and peaceful borders with both nations, and have had trade relationships with both that have benefited all parties even long before the North American Free Trade Agreement. This is one reason why a newly elected President has often made a visit to one or both countries among his first foreign trips as President. While Trump has generally not managed to mess up our relationship with Canada, at least not yet, his positions on Mexican immigrants and the border wall have done real damage to our relationship with Mexico that is clearly having an impact on Mexican public opinion and on our relationship with one of our closest neighbors. Add into all of this the negative things that Trump has said about NAFTA, which in reality has been quite beneficial to the United States over the past two decades, and it’s hard to see how that relationship is going to be healed anytime soon.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Donald Trump, Latin America, National Security, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    The thing that ought to worry the Trumpaloon Cult is that Peña Nieto not only blew off the President of the United States, he evidenced no fear of Trump. Let that sink in. The head of our poor, weak, abused neighbor to the south just told the president of the world’s only superpower to go fwck himself.

    The list of countries that hold Trump in contempt is now the list of countries in the world. North Korea laughs, the Chinese sneer and manipulate, Merkel rolls her eyes, the Iranians ignore, Russia can’t believe they managed to get the baboon elected and even the craven Teresa May has called him out. Trump cannot travel to the UK – once our strongest ally – for fear of British ridicule.

    No one has any respect for Trump with the possible exception of fellow criminal, Bibi Netanyahu. The United States is an international joke. Of course Peña Nieto feels free to diss Trump.




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  2. Slugger says:

    Mexico has been our number one customer for corn (maize for you Euros). During this past year, they have greatly increased their purchases from Brazil. Cordial foreign relations are not just about the guys at the top getting along. All of those crazy foreigners out there are potential buyers of stuff we are trying to sell. Trump comes across as domineering and sneering and bypasses the norms of diplomacy by having his daughter and son-in-law represent us to heads of state.




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  3. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Michael, the Trumpkins will say what they always say: “Fake news.” This report comes from the Washington Post. Any Trumpkin worth his or her salt will tell you that the Post, like the Times, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, and all the other major news outlets fabricates stories about Trump.

    Apparently at CPAC, Mona Charen called out Trump and Roy Moore for being serial abusers of women. Now, we know that Trump has bragged about assaulting women. We’ve heard him on tape. But the CPAC audience screamed “Fake news!” at Charen, and she had to be escorted out by three security people.




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  4. Kathy says:

    What trump needs to learn is that he cannot treat an independent nation as he would a subjugated people. not to mention how unseemly it is for a rich nation to bully a poorer one for what is, in the end, mere white supremacist symbolism. If the US wants a useless wall, and the majority does not, let them pay for it. He’s no better than a mafioso trying to extort protection money, and deserves no less contempt.




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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    While Trump has generally not managed to mess up our relationship with Canada, at least not yet, his positions on Mexican immigrants and the border wall have done real damage to our relationship with Mexico

    Hmmmmm….. What ever could the reason be for such a stark difference?




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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: I think Bibi just sees trump as a useful idiot.




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  7. michael reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    Will Mona Charen finally see the light long-since seen by Jennifer Rubin and Nicole Wallace?

    What kind of woman still supports this vile man? I understand the primitive male mind grunting, “Him white like me, him loud and stoopid like me, me like!” But what kind of mother goes home to her daughters wearing a Trump pin? Yuck.




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  8. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    But what kind of mother goes home to her daughters wearing a Trump pin?

    Here’s something that blows my mind: I know a woman who was herself a victim of sexual assault, and is a Trump supporter.

    She KNOWS from personal experience the damage done to women by the things Trump brags about having done, and still supports him. I just can’t wrap my brain around that.




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  9. MBunge says:

    So…Mexico uses the United States as pressure release valve for decades to avoid the consequences of their own incompetence and we’re supposed to be afraid of offending them?

    Here’s a compromise. How about we pay for the wall with THIS money?

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/26/us-aid-320-million-mexico-wall-trump-specialists-backfire/97103024/

    And just so we’re clear, all you people freaked out about Russian Facebook posts are unconcerned about Mexico being the primary pipeline for illegal drugs coming into the United States? Hmm. I wonder how Mexico would feel if the United States was as “successful” stopping companies from shipping toxic waste down south as they are about stopping the cartels from shipping drugs up north.

    Mike




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  10. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    Your friend has convinced herself that Trump is innocent of assault, just as his other female fans have.




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  11. michael reynolds says:

    @Mikey:
    It’s why I remain skeptical of the ‘women’s vote.’ Women are not tribal, they do not cohere as reliably as men do.




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  12. wr says:

    @MBunge: I’m sorry, did you have a point?




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  13. Brooklyn Dave says:

    @MBunge:
    Dear God, that was so transparently worthless I’m … speechless. Are you really not aware how ridiculous you make yourself when you post things like this?




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  14. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    As far as I can tell, Charen’s never been a Trumpkin. She has an op-ed in the Times today entitled “I’m Glad I Got Booed at CPAC,” in which she refers to “this brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism.”




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  15. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:

    1) American capitalists have used THEM as a supply of cheap labor to keep down labor costs and kill unions. We could have stopped it at any time with employer verification – opposed by Republicans.

    2) We are the MARKET for illegal drugs. We create the demand that they fill. How is that their fault rather than ours?

    3) MS-13, Trump’s third favorite whipping boy, was created when we expelled Salvadorans back to El Salvador. That’s how it became an international threat rather than a minor LA street gang. And how are they financed? By the insatiable American hunger for drugs, including marijuana which is now legal on the entire west coast and increasingly across the country, making it particularly idiotic to be angry at Mexico. Are you mad at Mexico over tequila as well?

    4) The current drug epidemic – opioids – was not created by Mexico or Ms-13, it was created by lazy doctors and Big Pharma, and allowed to burn out of control because of stupid American laws and policies.




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  16. Mister Bluster says:

    ..Russian Facebook posts
    Bungles thinks we are dumb enough to believe that this is about Facebook posts.
    Here are excerpts from United States Public Documents that interest me far more than than anything on FaceBook.

    MANAFORT and GATES generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. From approximately 2006 through the present, MANAFORT and GATES engaged in a scheme to hide income from United States authorities, while enjoying the use of the money.
    United States v. Manafort and Gates

    In furtherance of the scheme, MANAFORT, with the assistance of Gates, concealed from the United States his work as an agent of, and millions of dollars in payments from, Ukraine and its political parties and leaders. Because MANAFORT, among other things, participated in a campaign to lobby United States officials on behalf of the Government of Ukraine, the President of Ukraine, and the Party of Regions, he was required by law to report to the United States his work and fees. MANAFORT did not do so. Instead, when the Department of Justice sent inquiries to MANAFORT and Gates in 2016 about their activities, MANAFORT and Gates responded with a series of false and misleading statements.
    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR.




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  17. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    Here’s a compromise. How about we pay for the wall with THIS money?

    Here’s a compromise: how about we abandon this $25 billion Trump vanity project and invest the $25 billion in health care research.




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  18. An Interested Party says:

    And just so we’re clear, all you people freaked out about Russian Facebook posts…

    Good grief! In all the years I’ve read this blog, I’ve never read anyone who is as big a sycophantic fluffer as you…have you no shame at all? How…sad…




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  19. Kathy says:

    One thing many Americans don’t realize is that Mexican immigration to the US stopped growing some time ago, and is in fact decreasing. What has risen is immigration from Central and South America to the US.

    Another thing they seem to be blissfully unaware of, is that Mexico plays a big role in intercepting, stopping, and turning back these immigrants, at the behest of the US and in exchange for US aid (no one does anything for free). So when they accuse Mexico of hypocrisy, seeing as how Mexico also deports immigrants from further south, they should look for the guilty party in the mirror.

    There’s a lot else. The Mexican government does not encourage immigration to the US, be it legal or not. In fact, the airwaves are filled with “Public Service” ads against immigrating to the US. The drug cartels in Mexico are a consequence of a) the failed war on drugs in America and b) the past “successes” in driving out drug cartels from other countries. The demand for drugs is BIG, the selling of drugs is very profitable. As long as that is so, taking down the cartels in one country will merely make them pop up elsewhere.




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