President Donald Trump reportedly had a phone call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto this week that concluded with both men deciding to call off a planned U.S. meeting. According to a story in the Washington Post, the D.C. visit was canceled when Peña Nieto told the president that he was still not going to pay for a proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. For Trump, who campaigned on that very promise, the news was unacceptable.
“Tentative plans for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to make his first visit to the White House to meet with President Trump were scuttled this week after a testy call between the two leaders ended in an impasse over Trump’s promised border wall, according to U.S. and Mexican officials,” reported the Post. “Peña Nieto was eyeing an official trip to Washington this month or in early March, but both countries agreed to call off the plan after Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of a border wall that the Mexican people widely consider offensive, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a confidential conversation.”
For now, Trump’s border wall remains in the planning stages and the intention appears to be to have U.S. taxpayers foot the construction bill while extracting payback from the Mexicans at a later time. The mechanism of that payback could take one of several forms: Trump has proposed renegotiating NAFTA, taxing remittance payments that Mexican expats send back home, and hiking taxes on Mexican imports.
This is not the first time that the two leaders have clashed on the subject of who will pay for the wall. In a phone call last year that was leaked to the public, Trump told the Mexican president that they would have a strained relationship if Pena Nieto continued to insist that his country would not pony up the money.
“The fact is,” Trump said last year, “we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall. I have to. I have been talking about it for a two-year period. If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore, because I cannot live with that.”