Today, Trump took a risk and won. He traveled to Mexico and gave a joint press conference with President Enrique Peña Nieto in which both parties appeared respectful of each other despite some obvious differences.
“Mr. Trump and I had an open and constructive discussion,” President Peña Nieto said. He added, “The purpose of our meeting was to get to know each other and to exchange ideas and visions about bilateral relations of our countries.” For his part, Trump described his visit to Mexico as “a great honor.”
One of the obvious areas of disagreement is how to handle the border. President Peña Nieto said the number of illegal immigrants crossing into the United States had peaked 10 years ago and declined ever since but he acknowledged, “the increasing number of non-Mexicans who cross through our country in order to reach the United States, therein creating serious human crises.”
Peña Nieto said immigration was just one part of the bigger picture at the border, one which did not take into account, “the illegal influx of weapons and money.” “Every year, thousands of weapons and millions of come into Mexico illegally from the north, strengthening drug cartels and other criminal organizations that generate violence in Mexico,” he added.
There was an implied rebuke of some comments Trump made during the primaries. Peña Nieto said, “Mexicans in the United States are honest and hardworking people. They’re persons that are decent, that respect family life and community and that respect the law. As such, Mexicans deserve everyone’s respect.”
Trump then spoke and expressed his love for the United States and his respect for the Mexican people. “The United States’ first, second and third generation Mexicans just beyond reproach, spectacular, spectacular, hard working people,” Trump said. He added, “I have such great respect for them and their strong values of family, faith and community.”
Trump then offered a series of five goals, the first of which was ending illegal immigration. However he framed this goal in humanitarian terms as well as economic ones. “This is a humanitarian disaster,” Trump said. “The dangerous treks, the abuse by gangs and cartels and the extreme physical dangers—and it must be solved.”
Point two on Trump’s list was to recognize, “the right of either country to build a physical barrier, or wall, on any of its borders to stop the illegal movement of people, drugs and weapons.”
Point three was to stop the flow of drugs across the border and to take down the drug cartels. Point four was to improve and update NAFTA and to keep “industry in our hemisphere.” Finally, point five was to “keep manufacturing wealth in our hemisphere.”
Trump closed by saying “Mr. President I want to thank you. It’s been a tremendous honor. And I call you a friend.”
One thing Trump did not mention in his speech today was his frequent promise to make Mexico pay for a wall on the border. When asked about that during the Q&A, Trump replied, “We didn’t discuss that.” When pressed Trump added, “We did discuss the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That will be for a later date. This was a very preliminary meeting.”
Here’s the full press conference:
Update: President Peña Nieto has contradicted Trump’s claim, made during the Q&A, that they did not discuss payment for the wall. This tweet reads, “At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”
Al inicio de la conversación con Donald Trump dejé claro que México no pagará por el muro.
— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) August 31, 2016
Trump said, “We didn’t discuss payment of the wall.” Is it a discussion if one side makes a statement and the other side doesn’t engage? This is getting Clintonian.