By Louis Nelson
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday called off his planned trip to Washington, after President Donald Trump moved forward with his plan for a long-promised border wall and needled his southern neighbor about forcing Mexico to pay for it.
Trump, however, claims it was a mutual decision.
“I’ve said many times that the American people will not pay for the wall. And I’ve made that clear to the government of Mexico,” Trump said in remarks Thursday to congressional Republicans at a retreat in Philadelphia. “To that end, the president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting scheduled for next week. Unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless and I want to go a different route. We have no choice.”
The president’s statement that the decision to cancel had been mutual came hours after Peña Nieto wrote on Twitter that it had been his decision to call off the White House trip. “This morning we told the White House we won’t attend next Tuesday’s meeting with @POTUS,” Peña Nieto tweeted in a series of posts. “Mexico reiterates its will to work with the US to achieve agreements for both of us.”
The posts from Peña Nieto followed two from Trump earlier Thursday morning. They warned that if Peña Nieto was steadfast in his promise that his nation won’t pay for a wall along America’s southern border, “then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting” between the two leaders.
The cancellation represented an escalation of the already simmering tension between the Trump administration and its Mexican counterpart and comes on the eve of Trump’s first meeting with a foreign leader, British Prime Minister Theresa May. Trump’s promise of a White House driven by an “America First” ethos has worried foreign leaders around the globe, but perhaps nowhere more than in Mexico, a nation with which Trump has pledged to get tough.