Friends at last?
President Trump — for the first time since taking office — briefly met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto Friday on the sidelines of the G20 conference in Hamburg, Germany.
Trump referred to Peña Nieto as his “friend,” but said afterward he “absolutely” wants Mexico to pay for his massive border wall.
Peña Nieto, appearing with Trump after the meeting, said he looked forward to a “flowing dialogue” between the nations.
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Mexico has regularly scoffed at the notion of financing wall construction, and aides for its president said that no discussion of the wall happened during the meeting.
Peña Nieto was the first of several side meetings Trump has Friday — the most prominent of which being a high-profile get-together with Vladimir Putin.
Speaking through a translator, Peña Nieto said he discussed jointly fighting the drug industry, trade agreements and immigration issues with Trump.
Their meeting — the first time they’ve seen each other in nearly a year — comes as tensions are unusually high between the nations.
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Up to this point Peña Nieto has had a confrontational relationship with Trump, who’s alleged that Mexico sends drugs and criminals over the U.S. border.
Peña Nieto has slammed Trump’s pledge that Mexico will pay for a massive border wall with the U.S. — estimates for which have been as high as $66 billion.
The North American leaders focused on renegotiating NAFTA, talks for which are scheduled to start next month.
“We’re negotiating NAFTA and some other things with Mexico, and we’ll see how it all turns out,” Trump told reporters. “But I think we’ve made very good progress.”
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Trump has regularly said the U.S. has been hurt by the 23-year-old trade agreement while Mexico and Canada reap the benefits.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said after Friday’s meeting that a “big part of the conversation” was on the more than agreement behind more than $1 trillion in trade, and that “we think there is a lot of room to make it a better agreement for the three nations.”
Bad blood between the President and Mexico stretches back to the campaign trail, when Trump accused Mexicans of being job stealers, drug dealers and rapists.
Peña Nieto invited Trump to Mexico City last August, despite backlash from his own people.
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Things looked up at first, until a set of tough-talking tweets from Peña Nieto after the meeting.
Those prompted Trump to lace into Mexico at a campaign rally in Arizona later that day — doubling down that Mexico will pay for the wall.
Matters only worsened after Trump took office in January.
A Twitter argument over who would foot the wall’s bill forced both sides to scrub an in-person meeting in January, not long after Trump took office.
The two got into a phone call spat in later in January, during which Trump threatened to send U.S. troops to deal with the “bunch of bad hombres down there.”
Congress has earmarked $20 million for companies to build prototypes, which should be done later this summer, but hasn’t come up with a long-term funding plan for the actual structure.
With News Wire Services
With CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN
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