Pena Nieto Trip to U.S. Called Off After Phone Call With TrumpBy
Visit cancelled after Trump brought up wall: Washington Post
Plan for presidents’ meeting had been announced Feb. 14
A preliminary proposal for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to visit Donald Trump at the White House this month or next has been postponed indefinitely, according to two officials familiar with the planning.
The officials wouldn’t confirm a Washington Post report that the visit was called off because Trump, in a phone call with Pena Nieto last week, wouldn’t agree to publicly acknowledge that Mexico won’t pay for his proposed border wall. The visit’s cancellation was reported by Mexican news magazine Proceso on Feb. 20.
Pena Nieto, who leaves office in December, still hopes the meeting will happen at some point, said the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the private planning.
Both the White House and Pena Nieto’s office on Feb. 20 said the leaders had spoken by phone, with Trump offering condolences to the families of victims of a helicopter crash in Oaxaca and Pena Nieto expressing solidarity and support following the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The U.S. statement said Trump reiterated a commitment to expanding ties on security, trade and immigration, and it made no mention of the wall or Pena Nieto’s upcoming visit.
The press offices of Mexico’s foreign relations ministry and presidency declined to comment beyond the statement on the phone call. Neither side would respond to the Post report.
“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,” said Michael Anton, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council.
Trump’s promise to make Mexico pay billions of dollars for a wall to stop illegal immigration was a central point of his presidential campaign, which he began by labeling some Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. Mexico has repeatedly said paying for the wall is a non-starter.
Mexico and the U.S. have since engaged in months of sometimes contentious talks to renegotiate the Nafta trade deal, which Trump has called a horrible deal for the U.S. that led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. Trump last month indicated that he could be flexible with Nafta talks ahead of Mexico’s July presidential election -- and then repeated his threat to withdraw if he can’t reach an agreement that’s “fair” for America.
Pena Nieto’s party faces a tough challenge to hang onto the presidency, with his chosen candidate, former Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade, running third in most polls. Pena Nieto isn’t eligible for reelection.
Trump was scheduled to host Pena Nieto in Washington shortly after taking office in January 2017, but the Mexican leader canceled his trip after a dispute over the wall erupted on Twitter. They later sat down at the Group of 20 meetings in Hamburg, Germany in July. The two first met in Mexico City in August 2016, when Pena Nieto welcomed the then candidate in an encounter, arranged by Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray and Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, that was widely criticized in Mexico. Trump repeated his promise to make Mexico pay for the wall hours after the visit.
Pena Nieto last visited the White House to meet with President Barack Obama in July 2016. Trump hasn’t visited Mexico as president.
Plans for the meeting were originally announced on Feb. 14, after Videgaray visited Washington and met with Trump administration officials including Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
— With assistance by Margaret Talev, Nacha Cattan, and Eduardo Thomson