President Donald Trump on Wednesday stirred up controversy by his insistence that Mexico will pay for the fence on the common border, and he did so with a large Mexican delegation present during the signing ceremony of the U.S. version of the trilateral trade agreement with Canada, the USMCA.
Trump did not repeat during the ceremony that controversial election promise, but he did refer to his rally Tuesday in New Jersey, where he stated that Mexico “will pay very nicely for the wall”.
In front of some 400 people on the South Lawn of the White House, Trump said Wednesday that he is “building (on the border with Mexico) a huge and powerful wall”.
“I don’t know if I should say this at this particular event, but last night he got a big round of applause. Today they’re a little more like, ‘Should we applaud now?'” the president said, not to mention the payment for the project.
Among the audience of the ceremony were the Mexican Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, and the Mexican Secretary of Economy, Graciela Marquez, in addition to the Undersecretary of Foreign Trade, Luz Maria de la Mora, the Undersecretary for North America, Jesus Seade, and the Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., Martha Barcena.
Trump was boasting about his comment on Tuesday a few hours after Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was forced to react today during his usual morning press conference.
“Our relationship with the United States is good, we don’t want to fight. Love and peace,” said Lopez Obrador, then raised his hands in a sign of peace.
“Even if they (provoke) us, we are not going to get hooked,” reiterated the Mexican president, who recalled that the United States is in a “special time” because of the proximity of the November presidential elections.
The Lopez Obrador government has adopted a position of greater restraint in this regard than that of his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto (2012-2018), who repeated several times that Mexico would “never” pay for the wall.
The White House agreed in January 2017 with the Peña Nieto government that Trump would not speak in public about who would pay for the construction of the wall, but the U.S. president has broken that pact on several occasions, usually in the context of an election campaign.
Three years after Trump came to power, the security of some 162 kilometers of border has been strengthened, but not through a concrete wall, but through a steel fence that largely replaces previous constructions.
That reinforced section is equivalent to 0.04 percent of the nearly 3,180-kilometer border with Mexico, plus another 214 kilometers under construction, according to the Border Patrol.