Awkward. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto attempted to mend fences today with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has pledged to not only build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border, but make Mexico pay for it.
On the heels of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Nieto visited President Barack Obama at the White House, where the two presidents held a joint press conference.
At stake for Nieto is that Mexico is the third-largest trading partner to the U.S., and on any given day, more than $1.5 billion in bilateral trade crosses the border, according to the White House.
Also at stake: Both Mexico and the U.S. are signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and both countries—for now—are actively working to ratify the TPP as soon as possible.
One problem is that Nieto has been quoted comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. But that was earlier this year. Faced with the prospect that he could be sitting across the negotiating table with Trump next year, Nieto took no chances during the joint press conference today.
“Any issue, anything that I have said, has been taken out of context,” Nieto said of his earlier comments about dictators.
Repeatedly, Nieto bent over backwards to pay “respect” to Trump and the U.S. democratic process. He carefully avoided commenting on the wall.
“And Mrs. Hillary Clinton and Mr. Donald Trump, I would like to express to both of them my greatest respect, my deepest respect,” Nieto said.
Nieto also proposed a “frank, open dialogue with whomever is elected on the relationship between our two nations.” But time may be running out for the TPP.
In accepting the Republican nomination, Trump told his supporters that NAFTA was one of worst economic deals ever made by this or any other country. “Never, ever again,” he said.
Moreover, the TPP “will not only destroy our manufacturing, but it will make America subject to the rulings of foreign governments,” Trump said. “And it's not going to happen.”
For his part, Obama said globalization is a fact because of technology, an integrated global supply chain and changes in transportation. “And we're not going to be able to build a wall around that,” he said.
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