WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump insisted on Tuesday that Mexico will pay for the border wall he wants to build to halt illegal migration, once again putting on the table the issue that has most soured relations between the two countries one day after a friendly telephone call with his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto.
“Yeah. The wall will be paid for very easily, by Mexico. It will ultimately be paid for by Mexico,” Trump said in response to his plans for the border wall at the White House after meeting with FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
The president offered no further explanation of his remark.
That declaration resurrects an issue that Trump and Peña Nieto sidestepped during their Monday telephone call, which took place before television cameras and which focused on hailing the preliminary agreement to revamp the two countries’ trade relationship, creating a pact that could replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, in place since 1994 but which Trump has repeatedly called a job-killing “disaster” for the US.
Immediately after Trump made his comment about the wall, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray responded to the US leader’s words on Twitter in both Spanish and English.
“We just reached a trade understanding with the US, and the outlook for the relationship between our two countries is very positive. We will NEVER pay for a wall, however. That has been absolutely clear from the very beginning,” tweeted Videgaray, who has been integrally involved in the trade negotiations.
The differences over paying for the wall have been the major irritant in relations between the US and Mexico since Trump took office, and Peña Nieto has cancelled two scheduled visits to Washington because of the ongoing friction.
In a phone conversation last February, Peña Nieto asked Trump to state publicly that Mexico would not pay for the wall, something that the US leader categorically refused to do.
The US and Mexico announced on Monday a preliminary trade agreement, saying that “They used to call it NAFTA, we are going to call it the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement, and we will get rid of the name NAFTA. It has a bad connotation because the United States was hurt very badly by NAFTA.”
The pact, which must be ratified by both the US and Mexican congresses and signed before it can go into effect, would have a minimum duration of 16 years and would affect several sectors, including the automotive sector.
Under the new deal, automobiles manufactured in both the US and Mexico would have to have at least 75 percent of their parts made in the US and 40 percent of that production would have to be by workers earning more than $16/hour.