Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said he would not attend a planned Jan. 31 meeting with President Donald Trump after Trump tweeted Thursday that Mexico should cancel if it is “unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall.”
Peña Nieto followed that tweet with a message saying Mexico “reiterates its willingness to work with the United States for agreements in favor of both nations.”
President Trump said at the Republican congressional retreat in Philadelphia that he and Peña Nieto had agreed to cancel the meeting.
“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,” he said. “We have no choice.”
The White House “will keep the lines of communication open” with Peña Nieto, Trump’s press secretary said, adding that the administration will “look for a date to schedule something in the future.”
The tweets mark a deep rift between the two countries and their leaders.
The Republican’s unusual, voluble, and unpredictable style appeared to catch Mexico’s normally quiet and cautious diplomacy off guard.
Finance Secretary Jose Antonio Meade told Grupo Formula radio that “I think that, in general, diplomacy is not conducted via Twitter.”
“The foreign relations secretary is involved up there, having meetings up there, and we’ll have to see what comes out of that, what report they send to the president and what conclusions they arrive at from all that,” said Meade.
Mexico’s best-known opposition politician, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, tweeted that “in the face of Trump’s latest outburst, don’t go to the meeting, and submit an urgent complaint to the UN for human rights violations.”
Peña Nieto had released a video Wednesday saying his country will not reimburse the US for a border wall, which came hours after Trump signed executive actions related to the border wall and immigration.
In an interview with ABC News that also aired Wednesday, Trump reiterated his promise that Mexico would ultimately pay for the border wall.
“I’m just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form,” Trump said.