Mexican president scraps visit with Trump

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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said Thursday he will not attend a planned meeting next week with President Trump.

“This morning we informed the White House that I will not attend the work meeting planned for next Tuesday with @POTUS,” Peña Nieto tweeted in announcing the cancellation.

Speaking to a Republican lawmakers at their retreat in Philadelphia, Trump claimed he and Peña Nieto “agreed to cancel our planned meeting.”
“Unless Mexico is going to treat the U.S. fairly, such a meeting would be fruitless,” the president said.

The move escalates brewing tensions between the two neighboring countries on hot-button issues such as immigration and trade.

The Mexican leader was irked by Trump’s announcement that he plans to move forward with his plan to erect a wall along the U.S. southern border — and eventually force Mexico to foot the bill.

“The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets Thursday morning. “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.”

That prompted Trump to urge Peña Nieto to call off the meeting, scheduled for Jan. 31. 

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the get-together would be rescheduled.

“We’ll look for a date to schedule something in the future,” he said.

The budding controversy could lead to economic fallout for both countries.

The value of the Mexican peso plunged after Peña Nieto announced he would call off the meeting.

Mexico is the U.S.’s third-largest trading partner and is the second-largest export market for American-made goods, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

Democrats slammed Trump over the cancellation, saying he was putting at risk the relationship with an important partner.

“Less than one week after taking office, President Trump is already causing serious damage to one of our most important relationships in the world. U.S. national security depends directly on cooperation with our neighbors,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in a statement.

And House Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) touted cooperation between the two countries, and accused Trump of putting “our own security at risk.”

“The January 19th extradition of drug kingpin Chapo Guzmán to New York was a major victory for the Obama and Peña Nieto Administrations that never would have been possible without a robust U.S.-Mexico partnership,” Engel said.

The tensions with Mexico come after Trump on Wednesday signed two executive orders on immigration, one ordering construction of a border wall.

As Trump announced the moves at the Department of Homeland Security, top administration officials were meeting at the White House with two of Peña Nieto’s cabinet secretaries.

The orders prompted Peña Nieto to release a video in which he said the 50 Mexican consulates in the U.S. would “become authentic defenders of the rights of migrants.”

Peña Nieto, whose approval rating is currently 12 percent, faced calls to cancel the trip Wednesday night from politicians in Mexico, who saw Trump’s wall announcement as a slight.

The pressure intensified Thursday morning as Mexicans woke up to Trump’s tweets.

Margarita Zavala, a top contender for the presidency in the upcoming 2018 elections and wife of former President Felipe Calderon, called the tweets a “humiliation.”

“The vacuum that @EPN left yesterday was filled today by @realDonaldTrump with yet another humiliation. We require firmness and to put #MexicoFirst,” she tweeted.

Historian Enrique Krauze took a different tone, saying patience would be rewarded in dealing with Trump.

“Trump is demented and he will probably destroy himself. We must win time with patience, strength and dignity,” Reforma newspaper quoted Krauze as saying.

The two leaders’ political fates have been intertwined since August, when Trump visited Peña Nieto mid-campaign in Mexico City. That visit cost then-Secretary of Finance Luis Videgaray his job, amid perceptions that he played a key role in arranging it.

The visit was allegedly arranged through a mutual friend of Videgaray and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and now a White House advisor.

Videgaray returned to the cabinet, this time as Foreign Relations secretary, after Trump’s November victory, vowing to take the lead in U.S.-Mexico relations.

Videgaray was, along with Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo, one of the officials meeting White House officials Wednesday and Thursday.

Rafael Bernal contributed.

– Updated at 1:08 p.m.

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