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Tension over funding of border wall escalates, Mexican President cancels meeting with Trump

US President Donald Trump today told his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto that he should cancel his visit to Washington to meet him if Mexico is unwilling to pay for the massive border wall.

India TV News Desk, Washington [ Updated: January 26, 2017 23:20 IST ]
Trump said that Nieto should cancel his visit if Mexico can't pay for wallPhoto:AP

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto today cancelled his planned January 31 meeting with US President Donald Trump after his tough talk on forcing Mexico to pay for the wall he plans to build on the border.

"This morning we informed the White House that I will not attend the scheduled work meeting next Tuesday with the POTUS,"  Nieto said on Twitter. ​

"Mexico reiterates its willingness to work with the United States to reach agreements on behalf of both nations," he added. 

Pena Nieto was scheduled to be in Washington on January 31. 

The Mexican government had earlier indicated that Mexico was "considering" cancelling Nieto’s trip. 

Pena Nieto's message on Twitter ended days of uncertainty about how he would respond to Trump's aggressive stance toward the country, and illustrated the challenges world leaders are likely to face in dealing with Trump's voluble, Twitter-based diplomacy.

In Washington, White House press secretary Sean Spicer responded to the Mexican president's announcement, saying: "We'll look for a date to schedule something in the future. We will keep the lines of communication open."

Earlier Thursday, Trump had told his Mexican counterpart that he should cancel his visit to Washington to meet him if Mexico was unwilling to pay for the massive border wall that he wants to build to stop illegal migrants from entering America. 

"If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting," Trump tweeted, hours after his Nieto condemned the US decision to build a border wall and repeated that Mexico would not pay for the wall despite Trump's assertions that it would. 

“The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement) with massive numbers of jobs and companies lost,” he said in another tweet. 

"Mexico does not believe in walls. I've said time again; Mexico will not pay for any wall," Pena Nieto had said in a video statement posted to Twitter. 

"I regret and reject the decision of the US to build the wall," he had said. 

Pena Nieto had said that he would wait for a final report from his top officials who arrived here yesterday to meet with the Trump administration, and previous meetings with Mexican legislators, before deciding which steps he would take next. 

In a late night interview to ABC News, Trump said the US will be reimbursed by Mexico for the wall his administration is building across the US-Mexico border to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drug traffickers. 

"Yeah, absolutely, 100 per cent, yes," Trump said when asked if Mexico will pay US back. 

Earlier, Trump had signed two executive orders directing the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border, boosting border patrol forces and increasing the number of immigration enforcement officers who carry out deportations. 

In a speech on Monday, Pena Nieto had said his government is prepared to negotiate with the US if Mexico's national sovereignty is respected. He laid out economic integration and respect for the rights of migrants and the money they send home as his nation's key negotiating points. 

Trump has suggested some of the USD 25 billion in annual remittances that migrants return home would be retained to pay for the border wall. 

"Neither confrontation nor submission. Dialogue is the solution," Pena Nieto had said Monday. 

Trump said that he wants to build an "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall" between the US and Mexico. 

The US-Mexico border is about 3,100-km long and traverses all sorts of terrain from empty, dusty desert to the lush and rugged surroundings of the Rio Grande. 

Some 1,046-km of the border is covered already by a confused and non-continuous series of fences, concrete slabs and other structures. Trump says his wall will cover 1,600 km and natural obstacles will take care of the rest.

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