(Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto plan to meet in the coming weeks to review advances in the relationship between the nations and discuss pending issues, according to Mexico’s Foreign Ministry.
The meeting comes after months of sometimes contentious talks to renegotiate the Nafta trade deal and Trump’s insistence that America’s southern neighbor pay for a border wall, a demand Mexico rejects. Pena Nieto’s party also faces a tough challenge to hang onto the presidency in a July vote, with his chosen candidate, former Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade, running third in most polls. Pena Nieto isn’t eligible for reelection.
Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s foreign minister and one of Pena Nieto’s closest advisers, met with Trump administration officials including Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in Washington on Wednesday. They agreed to work to set up the presidential meeting, according to a statement from the ministry, which didn’t say where it will occur or give a specific date. The officials on Wednesday discussed cooperation on trade, immigration, security and energy.
Trump was scheduled to host Pena Nieto in Washington shortly after taking office in January 2017, but the Mexican leader canceled his trip after a dispute over the wall erupted on Twitter. They later sat down at the Group of 20 meetings in Hamburg, Germany in July. The two first met in Mexico City in August 2016, when Pena Nieto welcomed the then candidate in an encounter, arranged by Videgaray and Kushner, that was widely criticized in Mexico.
Pena Nieto last visited the White House to meet with President Barack Obama in July 2016. Trump hasn’t visited Mexico as president.
During the 2016 campaign Trump called some undocumented immigrants criminals and rapists. He also said the North American Free Trade Agreement was a horrible deal for the U.S. that led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, pledging to either renegotiate it or withdraw. Trump last month indicated that he could be flexible with Nafta talks ahead of the Mexican election -- and then repeated his threat to withdraw if he can’t reach an agreement that’s “fair” for America.
Amid a political showdown on immigration, a bipartisan U.S. Senate group tentatively agreed on a trimmed-down proposal Wednesday that would allow citizenship for young undocumented immigrants and provide $25 billion for a border wall. The plan doesn’t meet some White House demands, like cuts in family migration and an end to a diversity visa lottery. Trump has previously said that Mexico will sooner or later reimburse America for the wall.
Aside from Trump-Pena Nieto meeting, the upcoming round of talks to renegotiate NAFTA will start one day earlier than previously announced in order to accommodate ministers’ schedules. The meetings will now begin Sunday, Feb. 25 rather than Feb. 26 as originally announced and will run through March 5.
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