Mexican president cancelled meeting with Trump
President Enrique Pena Nieto announced Thursday he would not attend a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump amid growing indignation in Mexico about the new American leader’s executive order to build a wall between both nations.
"This morning we informed the White House that I will not attend next Tuesday's scheduled meeting with the President of the United States," Pena Nieto tweeted.
After Trump signed the order, politicians, celebrities and ordinary Mexicans took to social media to demand that Pena Nieto cancel his meeting with Trump that was scheduled for Jan. 31.
In a national broadcast late Wednesday, Pena Nieto said he “condemn[s] and deplore[s]” the decision to build the wall, adding that Mexico would not pay for it -- a claim Trump has repeatedly made.
Pena Nieto said he would consult with Mexican officials about how best to respond to the U.S. move.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Luis Videguaray has been in Washington since Tuesday preparing for the now-canceled meeting but will return to Mexico on Friday to help plan the country’s response.
Shortly before Pena Nieto's decision was made public, Trump wrote on Twitter: "If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting", adding that “the US has a 60-billion-dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers”.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, that took effect in 1994, has been a target of Trump as he campaigned for the White House and he threatened to scrap the deal if the U.S. could not renegotiate better terms for American workers.
Trump attempted Wednesday to frame the wall as beneficial to Washington and Mexico City during remarks on immigration and border security.
It is unclear if Trump's tweets threatening to scrap the meeting came before or after Pena Nieto called the White House to cancel it.
Speaking to lawmakers in the U.S. city of Philadelphia, Trump said that the decision to axe the meeting was mutual.
"Unless Mexico is going to treat us fairly and with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless, we have to go a different route," he said. "We have no choice".
That "route" appears to be a 20 percent tax on all imports from Mexico, according to the White House.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, spokesman Sean Spicer said the fee would provide U.S. coffers with $10 billion a year, which will allow Washington to "easily pay for the wall.
"That’s really going to provide the funding," he said.
It is unclear how the tariff will be affected by, or if it will even be possible under the free trade protections enshrined in NAFTA.
*Anadolu Agency Washington Correspondent Michael Hernandez contributed to this report