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 orders, politicians, celebrities and ordinary Mexicans took to social media to demand 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.
The White House said it will look to reschedule the meeting some time “in the future”, and will “keep the lines of communication open”.