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Trump asked Mexico’s Nieto to not publicly trash border wall, transcript reveals

Peña Nieto said it was “completely unacceptable” that Mexico pay for the wall.

world Updated: Aug 04, 2017 22:04 IST
Kartikeya Ramanathan
Donald Trump in Washington on August 4, 2017.
Donald Trump in Washington on August 4, 2017.(AP)

US President Donald Trump told his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto to stop publicly criticising the border wall, and clashed with him over border tariffs and trade deficits, the transcript of their telephonic conversation has revealed.

Their January 27 exchange took place a day after Trump tweeted that Mexico would pay for the wall, leading to Peña Nieto cancelling a January 31 trip to the US, the Washington Post, which published the transcript, reported.

Throughout their almost hour-long conversation, Peña Nieto referred to Trump as “Mr President” more than 20 times. However, Trump did not return the favour — he referred to his Mexican counterpart only once as “Mr President”, and called him by his first name 13 times in their exchange.

Peña Nieto said it was “completely unacceptable” that Mexico pay for the wall, calling for Trump and his team to find a solution for the same in order for ties between the two countries to move forward. He also seemed taken aback by Trump’s mention of border tariffs to fix the trade deficit between the two nations, saying it a “completely new” proposal.

However, Trump interrupted Peña Nieto, saying, “This is what I have been saying for a year and a half on the campaign trail.”

Peña Nieto appealed to Trump that the conversation was not being constructive.

“We can still build a very fair agreement so that we can increase and strengthen competitiveness between our two nations...I am sure we can have the dialogue and the agreement that is the best route to build a more robust and fairer agreement between both nations.

“Let me tell you that the best virtual wall that I think we can build between our two countries is to make sure that both countries have economic development,” he said.

Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto holding a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg on July 7, 2017. (AFP)

However, the appeal seemed to fall on deaf ears — Trump said the reason he proposed the wall was “because we do not want people to come across the border”. He also claimed that drug lords in Mexico were “sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles, and to New York (and) New Hampshire”.

Later in the conversation, Trump appealed to Peña Nieto to stop criticising the wall.

“My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language. But the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to.

I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is okay. But you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall,” he said.

He also brought up Israel, claiming that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had told him that “wall works”, referring to a portion of the Israeli barrier with Palestinian territories, which is a 25-foot-tall concrete wall. However, the wall between Israel and Palestine is only 33 miles long — the rest of the border is a six-foot-high electronic fence.

Peña Nieto later proposed both parties stop talking about the wall, which alarmed Trump.

“But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that. You cannot say that to the press because I cannot negotiate under those circumstances,” he said.

The US president, also rather bizarrely, told Peña Nieto that “it is you and I against the world”.