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Donald Trump says Mexico has taken advantage of US

President Donald Trump has said Mexico has taken advantage of the US for long enough, hours after the White House threatened to impose 20% tax on imports from Mexico.

world Updated: Jan 27, 2017 22:10 IST
Yashwant Raj
An aerial view  shows the urban fencing on the border between the US and Mexico in Tecate, northwestern Mexico, on Thursday.
An aerial view shows the urban fencing on the border between the US and Mexico in Tecate, northwestern Mexico, on Thursday. (AFP)

President Donald Trump kept up his criticism of Mexico on Friday, saying it “has taken advantage of the US for long enough,” as a crisis over border security and trade deepened.

“Massive trade deficits & little help on the very weak border must change NOW!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The United States on Thursday had threatened 20% duty on imports from Mexico to pay for a wall Trump plans to build along the border with the country’s southern neighbour, and then backtracked saying it was only a proposal, just an idea.

By the end of the day, Trump had on his hands his first international dispute without a considered response to Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto, who called off their meeting scheduled for next week.

As the exchange over the wall dominated headlines, reports came of the Trump administration removing the top leadership at the state department to make way for its own men and women to work with incoming secretary of state Rex Tillerson.

Trump ordered the National Park Service director to produce additional photographs of his inauguration crowds, believing the images “might prove that the media had lied” about the size of the audience, according to the Washington Post.

And a senior member of Trump’s team, chief strategist Steve Bannon, continued the administration’s attacks on the news media, calling it the “opposition party” in an interview. He also asked the media to keep its “mouth shut and just listen for a while”.

It was Trump’s wall, however, that received the maximum attention as he tried to bully the country’s much smaller neighbour into paying for it, with a mix of petulance and bravado. There is no point meeting Pena Nieto then, he suggested in a Tweet.

The Mexican president, who had been under intense pressure stand up to Trump, agreed, and said on Twitter, “This morning we have informed the White House that I will not attend the meeting scheduled for next Tuesday with the POTUS.”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in the afternoon Trump favoured a plan to impose an import duty of 20% on Mexican imports to fund the wall. And then called it only an “idea”, adding, ““Instead of 20% it could be 18, it could be 5”.

The wall is estimated to cost upwards of $10 billion, which is the figure Spicer is citing in his calculation. Trump set up the math in a tweet on Thursday morning, arguing Mexico could pay for it from its $50 billion trade surplus with the US. This wall was the centerpiece of his election plank, which he trotted out dutifully in every election speech and at every rally and led supporters into chanting “build the wall”. He would remind them of his promise to make Mexico pay for it.