U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken by phone with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, a conversation Trump described as "very, very friendly," a day after Pena Nieto canceled a planned trip to Washington.
Trump said his talk with Pena Nieto on Friday “lasted for about an hour” and said the two of them will “be working on a fair relationship, a new relationship.” However, Trump also said the two countries would be “renegotiating our trade deals” and said he would make sure the Untied States does not “lose” on trade.
Speaking to reporters Friday at a news conference with visiting British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump said, “I have great respect for Mexico. I love the Mexican people.” But he said regarding trade, “Mexico has outnegotiated us and beat us to a pulp. They've made us look foolish.”
Presidents agree to disagree
Trump did not mention the wall he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, the issue that led to Pena Nieto's cancellation of next week's meeting with Trump in Washington. Trump insists that Mexico pay for the wall, while Pena Nieto says Mexico will not.
A White House statement said, “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.”
A statement from Pena Nieto's office echoed the U.S. one, saying that the countries agreed to “resolve their differences” as part of ongoing discussions about the relationship. But it added, “The president also agreed for now not to talk publicly about this controversial issue.”
'Buffet of options'
On Thursday, the White House said Trump has a “buffet of options” on how to get Mexico to pay for the wall.
The White House initially said Thursday that Trump wanted to slap a 20 percent tax on all imports from Mexico. White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the new tax would raise $10 billion a year and “easily pay for the wall.” He also said the president discussed the idea with congressional leaders and wanted to include the measure in a comprehensive tax reform package that Congress would have to approve.
But later, the White House said the idea was just one of several options on the table for paying for a wall along the southern border. And it said Trump had yet to decide how the U.S. would recoup the costs of his proposed border wall.
U.S. taxpayers initially would foot the bill for the wall, which is expected to cost as much as $15 billion.
Wall a campaign promise
It is unclear what retaliatory steps Mexico could take if the border tax is approved, because exports to the U.S. are essential to the Mexican economy.
Trump made building a wall one of his top promises during the presidential campaign. He often led his supporters in chants of “build the wall, build the wall.”
The wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would be primarily aimed at stopping illegal immigration into the United States. But many Mexicans regard it as an insult, and the rough terrain and stretches of private property along the border could make building the wall a long and complicated project.