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President Donald Trump suggested he and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto cancel their meeting at the White House next week after an exchange over whether or not Mexico will be financing Trump’s planned border wall.
“If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting,” Trump tweeted early Thursday morning. He had previously posted, “The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers of jobs and companies lost.”
Trump’s response came after Pena Nieto reiterated that Mexico will not be paying for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border in a video posted to his Twitter account Wednesday night.
“I’ve said time and again: Mexico won’t pay for any wall,” he said in the video, which has been translated from Spanish. “I regret and condemn the decision of the United States to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us.”
He added, “Mexico doesn’t believe in walls.”
In the video, Pena Nieto made no mention of canceling the upcoming meeting with Trump, which was planned for Jan. 31.
After Trump’s tweet about canceling the face-to-face, however, the Mexican president informed the White House that he canceled his trip to Washington, D.C., on Thursday afternoon.
“This morning we informed the White House that I will not attend the scheduled work meeting for next Tuesday with @POTUS,” posted Pena Nieto to Twitter, tagging Trump’s presidential handle.
During his first TV interview as president, which aired Wednesday night, Trump doubled down on his promise that Mexico will pay for the wall. He told ABC’s David Muir that taxpayers will initially finance it but that it “will be in a form reimbursed by Mexico,” adding that the country would pay the U.S. back “100 percent.”
“We’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico,” Trump explained. “I’m just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form. What I’m doing is good for the United States. It’s also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a very stable, very solid Mexico.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump signed two executive orders calling for the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
When Muir asked how soon he plans to begin constructing the wall, Trump replied, “As soon as we can, as soon as we can physically do it,” he said. “Certainly planning is starting immediately.”
Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway appeared on Today earlier on Thursday in an attempt to explain why Trump has yet to outline a detailed plan on the financing of the wall, which is estimated to cost $12 billion to $15 billion.
“He wants to give the deference to his meeting with the Mexican president and other Mexican officials before he announces that,” she said of his upcoming meeting with Pena Nieto before Trump tweeted about canceling the sit-down.
On Friday morning, Trump and Pena Nieto released a joint statement after speaking by phone for an hourlong conversation.
“The two had a productive and constructive call regarding the bilateral relationship between the two countries,” read the statement, which mentioned the trade deficit and the importance of the friendship between the two nations in the need to work together to stop drug trafficking and arms sales. “With respect to payment for the border wall, both presidents recognize their clear and very public differences of positions on this issue but have agreed to work these differences out as part of a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship.”
The statement concluded by saying, “Both presidents have instructed their teams to continue the dialogue to strengthen this important strategic and economic relationship in a constructive way.”
During his Friday press conference with visiting British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump described the call with Pena Nieto as a “very, very friendly” one.
Jan. 27, 2:45 p.m. ET: Updated with joint statement.
Jan. 26: 12:05 p.m.: Updated with Pena Nieto canceling his U.S. trip.
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