By Felicia Sonmez and Damien Paletta | Washington Post
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Tuesday renewed his pledge to build a border wall paid for by Mexico, prompting a sharp rebuttal from the Mexican government one day after both countries announced plans for a sweeping new trade agreement.
The offhand comments by Trump were made to reporters in the Oval Office as he met with the head of international soccer’s governing body, FIFA President Gianni Infantino. The remark underscored the lingering tensions between the two allies over the president’s oft-touted campaign pledge.
“Yeah, the wall will be paid for very easily, by Mexico,” Trump said when asked about plans for a wall at the southern border. “It will ultimately be paid for by Mexico.”
After footage of Trump’s remarks was widely broadcast on television, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray immediately fired back, maintaining that Mexico will never agree to fund a border wall.
“We just reached a trade understanding with the US, and the outlook for the relationship between our two countries is very positive,” Videgaray said in a tweet. “We will NEVER pay for a wall, however. That has been absolutely clear from the very beginning.”
A little over 24 hours earlier, Videgaray was among the Mexican officials who met with Trump in the Oval Office.
The Trump administration announced Monday that it had reached a preliminary 16-year trade agreement with Mexico that would alter the North American Free Trade Agreement. The ultimate scope of the pact, centered largely on manufacturing, could depend on whether Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decides to sign on.
Trump’s promise to build a border wall funded by Mexico has long been a source of friction between the two countries. In February, a 50-minute phone call between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto ended in frustration as the leaders butted heads on the issue. The impasse led both sides to abruptly call off plans for Peña Nieto to visit Washington.
Trump made no mention of the wall during a celebratory phone conversation with Peña Nieto on Monday. On that call, the Mexican leader told Trump that he was sending him “an affectionate hug.”
Trump replied, “A hug from you would be very nice.”
The Washington Post’s David Nakamura contributed to this report.