U.S. President Donald Trump says he had a "great talk" Monday with Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, holding out hope that they may be able to ease immigration tensions along their countries' border.
"I think the relationship is going to be a very good one,' Trump said a day after the leftist Lopez Obrador's landslide election to a six-year term. "I think he is going to try and help us with the border."
Trump said they talked for a half-hour about the influx of migrants -- mostly from Central America -- that trek through Mexico and cross illegally into the United States, along with contentious trade issues that are now being negotiated by Mexico, the U.S. and Canada in revamping the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Trump said the U.S. and Mexico could forge a new separate bilateral trade deal instead of redoing NAFTA.
Trump has long sought funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border to thwart more illegal migration and vowed to make Mexico pay for it, which Mexican leaders have adamantly said they would not do. Trump made no mention of whether he brought up his demand, a favorite vow of his during his 2016 campaign for the U.S. presidency.
Trump has sought $25 billion in funding from Congress to pay for the wall, but only $1.6 billion has been allocated so far and U.S. lawmakers for years, including again last week, have been unable to agree on immigration policy changes.
His administration is now faced with complying with a federal court order to reunite more than 2,000 migrant children with their parents who were separated when they were apprehended at the border in recent weeks under Trump's "zero tolerance" for illegal border crossers.
After an international outcry over the breakup of families, Trump reversed his stance and the government is now keeping families together when they are detained.
Aside from current tensions between the two neighbors, the U.S. State Department said Lopez Obrador's election "demonstrated the Mexican people’s commitment to democratic values." It said the two countries "share a lasting friendship based on strong economic, cultural and historical ties that bind our nations."
The 64-year-old Lopez Obrador got his start in Mexican politics decades ago as an advocate for indigenous people's rights. After easily winning the election, he said that eradicating corruption and impunity will be the primary mission of his government.
Another key focus of his government will undoubtedly be dealing with the U.S. government and Trump, who started his political career three years ago by claiming that Mexico was allowing criminals and rapists to enter the U.S.
Trump quickly tweeted congratulations to Lopez Obrador on Sunday night after his victory became evident. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and fellow NAFTA member, hailed Lopez Obrador's victory in "close friend" Mexico.