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Trump, Mexican leader speak to mend rift over wall

access_time Jan 28,2017 chat_bubble_outline 71 views
Trump, Mexican leader speak to mend rift over wall

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and US President Donald Trump sought to tone down diplomatic tensions over the Republican's planned border wall, agreeing to seek a resolution to the thorny dispute.

One day after the spat boiled over, with Pena Nieto cancelling a trip to Washington next week in response to Trump's insistence that Mexico pay for the barrier, the two leaders held an hour-long phone conversation.

Trump described the talks as "very friendly" while the two governments issued a nearly similar statement saying it was "constructive and productive."

The discussion capped a week that saw relations between the neighboring nations plunge into the biggest diplomatic crisis in decades as Pena Nieto vowed that Mexico will never pay for the border barrier.

While Trump and Pena Nieto "recognized their clear and very public differences" about who should pay for the wall, they agreed to "resolve these differences as part of a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relation," the statement said.

But the Mexican government's version of the statement included a line missing from the White House text: "The presidents also agreed for now to no longer speak publicly about this controversial issue."

Trump and Pena Nieto spoke about the US trade deficit with Mexico, "the importance of the friendship between our nations" and the need for the neighbors to work together to curb drug and weapons trafficking, the statement said.

The presidents instructed their teams to continue the dialogue, but there was no indication that they would reschedule their own meeting any time soon.

- 'Beat us to a pulp' -

Speaking at a press conference during talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Washington, Trump said he had a "very good relationship" with Pena Nieto.

The US leader said he looked forward to renegotiating trade deals and other aspects of US relations with Mexico.

"As you know, Mexico with the United States has outnegotiated us and beat us to a pulp through our past leaders. They've made us look foolish," he said, noting that the US has a $60 billion trade deficit with Mexico.

Trump wants to renegotiate the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada.

Both Trump and Mexican officials have threatened to pull out of the pact if they fail to get a good deal.

"We are going to be working on a fair relationship and a new relationship, but the United States cannot continue to lose," Trump said.

Before the phone call was made public, Trump had railed against Mexico on Twitter, saying the country "has taken advantage of the US for long enough."

He complained about "massive trade deficits" and exclaimed that "little help on the very weak border must change, NOW!"

But he did not mention the wall payment.

- Stiff tariff -

The spat over the wall has created the biggest diplomatic rift since a drug cartel tortured and killed a US undercover agent in 1985.

Trump has angered Mexicans, perplexed economists and energized his nationalist political base by vowing to build a wall along the US frontier -- and then somehow make Mexico pay for it.

Mexico's leaders have repeatedly said their country will never pay for the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border barrier that Trump says is needed to stop illegal immigrants and drug smugglers from coming over.

Trump's response has been to ask the US Congress to find between $12-15 billion for construction and to help him find a way to recoup the money with some kind of tariff on Mexican imports.

His team has floated several ideas for how to do this. On Friday, for example, senior aide Kellyanne Conway told CBS television that a five to 20 percent tax may be imposed at the border.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer suggested that one option -- not necessarily the favored one -- would be a border adjustment tax of the kind favored by Republicans in the US Congress.

Visiting Washington on Thursday, Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray scoffed at the notion, arguing that this would just pass the cost of the wall on to US consumers buying Mexican goods.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim weighed in on the diplomatic row on Friday, saying his country was united and in a position of strength in the negotiations.

Slim, who criticized Trump during the US presidential campaign, joked that while Trump was a good negotiator, he was not the "Terminator."

UN Security Council to vote on Israel settlements

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The UN Security Council will vote on Thursday on an Egyptian-drafted resolution demanding that Israel immediately halt its settlement activities in the Palestinian territories and east Jerusalem.A similar resolution was vetoed by the United States in 2011, and it remained uncertain if the measure would be adopted this time.Egypt circulated the draft late Wednesday and a vote was scheduled for 3 pm (2000 GMT) on Thursday.Israeli settlements are seen as… chat_bubble_outline Read More...

The Latest: 'Heartbroken' voter runs into Clinton on hike

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the U.S. presidential transition (all times EST):7:30 a.m.A Hillary Clinton supporter who was "heartbroken" over Tuesday's election says she decided to go on a hike in the woods — and ran into the former presidential candidate herself.Margot Gerster said in a Facebook post that she was heading home following her hike Thursday in Clintons' hometown of Chappaqua, New York, when she saw Clinton and former President Bill Clinton walking their dogs.Gerster said she… chat_bubble_outline Read More...

No taxes for teachers: California tries to hold on to good educators

A new bill proposed in the California State Senate would completely eliminate income tax for teachers who have been in the profession for six years. Senate Bill 807, also known as the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act, is an attempt to provide incentives for teachers to stay in the profession in a state troubled by a shortage of educators.In many parts of the United States, teachers continue to face low pay and high burnout rates despite the importance of the profession. The California bill… chat_bubble_outline Read More...

Indonesian women killed in Hong Kong are forgotten at home

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Colombia learns hard lesson on land management from deadly flood

People were caught off guard when a devastating flash flood surged through a small city in southern Colombia, but not everyone was surprised.Government agencies, land use experts, and environmental organizations had said for years that Mocoa could face dangerous flooding. Many who lived in the most vulnerable areas were aware of the warnings, even if they didn't heed them. And yet the city continued to spread into the floodplains west of downtown."Unfortunately, in Colombia we don't have a good… chat_bubble_outline Read More...

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