President Barack Obama’s top business ambassador dismissed Republican Donald Trump’s call for a wall along the Mexico border, saying the U.S. is focused instead on expanding business with one of its biggest trade partners.
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said that while border security is important, the administration wants to facilitate trade that has grown sixfold to more than $530 billion in goods since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994.
Pritzker was in Brownsville, Texas, on Tuesday and met with Mexico’s finance minister to inaugurate a rail crossing to Matamoros -- the first new train connection between the U.S. and Mexico in more than a century. Pritzker said that despite the presidential campaign rhetoric, she’s hasn’t seen strains in the U.S.-Mexico commercial relationship.
“There’s an enormous opportunity for us to do business together,” Pritzker said in a telephone interview. “That’s why we’re focused on building bridges and not building walls.”
Trump, leading in the polls for the Republican presidential nomination, has said Mexico is sending rapists and criminals to the U.S. and that Mexico should pay for a wall to seal off its border with the U.S. He also suggested applying a tariff to finance the project if the Mexican government doesn’t fund it voluntarily.
Asked if the Obama administration is discussing such a new wall project with Mexico, Pritzker said “That’s just not where the conversation is.”