After a surprise, last-minute meeting in Mexico City, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto agreed to disagree Wednesday on such politically contentious topics as immigration and trade — and disputed whether they discussed Trump’s claims that Mexico would pay for his proposed border wall.
While Trump told reporters he and Peña Nieto “didn’t discuss” financing the wall — “that will be for a later date” — the Mexico president later contradicted the GOP candidate on Twitter, saying that “at the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made clear that Mexico would not pay for the wall.”
Speaking just hours before a highly anticipated speech in Phoenix on immigration, Trump declared that the United States has the right to build a wall to block the flow of immigrants who have committed crimes, a proposal that has drawn criticism from many Mexican leaders and offended sensibilities south of the border.
“We recognize and respect the right of either country to build a physical barrier or wall on any of its borders to stop the illegal movement of people, drugs and weapons,” the Republican nominee said.
Trump also disagreed with Peña Nieto on the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying the deal has benefited Mexico more than the United States and needs to be changed.
Trump, who has described some Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, also went out of his way to praise Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, saying they are “beyond reproach” and “spectacular, hardworking people.”
Peña Nieto offered a different analysis of border issues, calling them a “shared challenge” between the United States and Mexico and noting that weapons and cash for the drug trade flow into Mexico from the United States.
He also disputed Trump’s criticisms of the NAFTA agreement involving the U.S., Mexico and Canada, saying all countries have benefited, though he added that the deal can always be improved.
“We may not agree on certain topics,” he said at one point.
The Mexican president, who once likened Trump to Hitler and Mussolini, said he and the Republican presidential nominee met in order to get to know each other.
John Podesta, campaign chairman for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, mocked Trump over the wall dispute with Peña Nieto, saying the Republican “didn’t just choke, he got beat in the room and lied about it.”
Trump spokesman Jason Miller said the meeting was “the first part” of a discussion and “not a negotiation.”
“It is unsurprising that they hold two different views on this issue, and we look forward to continuing the conversation,” Miller said in a statement.
Trump’s visit inspired protests in Mexico and sparked criticism of Peña Nieto. The meeting was high stakes for the Mexican president, whose approval rating hovers in the low 20s as his administration has been battered by corruption and conflict-of-interest scandals.
Members of the local legislative assembly declared the Republican presidential nominee “persona non-grata,” while demonstrators gathered at the Angel of Independence monument near the U.S. Embassy. On Twitter, #DonaldTrumpNoEresBienvenido — Donald Trump You’re Not Welcome — became a trending topic.
While Trump has attacked Mexico throughout the campaign, he struck a more positive tone after his meeting with Peña Nieto, saying at one point that Mexicans were “amazing, amazing people.”
SOURCE: David Jackson and David Agren