U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Pena Nieto, should cancel his scheduled visit to Washington if Mexico refuses to pay for a wall he has ordered constructed along the border.
“The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers… of jobs and companies lost. If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting,” Trump said on Twitter.
His message could undo a planned summit next week during which the two leaders were expected to address a relationship frayed by the new U.S. president’s determination to build a wall along their shared border and to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Even before Trump’s tweet, Pena Nieto faced growing pressure at home to scrap the meeting over objections to the border wall.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.
Trump signed new executive orders, including one authorizing the planned wall, on Wednesday just as a Mexican delegation led by Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray arrived at the White House for talks.
The timing caused outrage in Mexico, with prominent politicians and many on social media seeing at as a deliberate snub to the government’s efforts to engage with Trump, who has for months used Mexico as a political punching bag.
Videgaray said on Wednesday night the summit was still on “for now.”
On Thursday, U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch Mcconnell said Congress plans to move ahead with the wall.
Trump, who took office last Friday after winning the Nov. 8 election, ruffled feathers with Mexico from the start of his presidential campaign in 2015, saying that the country sent criminals and rapists to the United States and promising to build a wall along the border that he said Mexico would pay for. Mexico has long said it will not pay for such a project.
Trump has also threatened to penalize U.S. companies that use Mexican manufacturing plants to produce goods for the United States.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Frances Kerry)