Trump, Nieto talk by phone, agree to keep talks of wall payment private

President Donald Trump, pictured here walking outside the White House on Thursday, spoke to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto by telephone on Friday. Both leaders described the conversation as positive and constructive, and said the presidents agreed to stop talking in public about who's going to pay for a new border wall Trump ordered Wednesday. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 28 (UPI) — Less than 48 hours after President Donald Trump said he’s going to build a wall along the southern U.S. border and make Mexico pay for it, he spoke to his Mexican counterpart by telephone Friday and smoothed out the edges of what’s become a sticky diplomatic row.

The White House said Trump spoke to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Friday morning for about an hour. During the call, the leaders turned on the diplomacy.

“The two had a productive and constructive call regarding the bilateral relationship between the two countries, the current trade deficit the United States has with Mexico, the importance of the friendship between the two nations, and the need for the two nations to work together to stop drug cartels, drug trafficking and illegal guns and arms sales,” the White House said in a statement.

“With respect to payment for the border wall, both presidents recognize their clear and very public differences of positions on this issue but have agreed to work these differences out as part of a comprehensive discussion,” it continued. “Both presidents have instructed their teams to continue the dialogue to strengthen this important strategic and economic relationship in a constructive way.”

Peña Nieto’s office issued a similar summary of the call, but it claimed that the two leaders also agreed to shelve talk about who’s going to pay for the border wall — at least in the public arena.

“With regard to the payment of the border wall, both presidents acknowledged their clear and very public differences in position on this sensitive issue and agreed to resolve these differences as part of a comprehensive discussion of all aspects of the bilateral relationship,” it said. “The presidents also agreed at this point not to speak publicly about this controversial issue.”

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that directed federal agencies to prepare for construction of a barrier wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — an effort at the center of Trump’s campaign last year that’s intended to keep crime, drugs and immigrants from entering the United States illegally. File Photo by Art Foxall/UPI

White House spokesman Sean Spicer confirmed later Friday that the presidents did agree to keep discussions about the wall’s payment private.

“They agreed not to discuss how it will be paid for publicly, that they will continue to have those discussions privately,” he said.

On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to prepare for construction of the wall, and said U.S. funding would get it built — but that Mexico will reimburse the government 100 percent at a later date.

Trump also said if Mexico refuses to reimburse the United States for the barrier, he will impose a new trade tax that will cover the cost.

Peña Nieto, who has long refused to pay for a wall, responded by canceling his trip to the White House next week.

At a joint news briefing with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, Trump mentioned the phone call and said he hopes to move forward with a positive and constructive relationship with Peña Nieto and the Mexican people.

“We had a very good call,” he said.

“The border is soft and weak, drugs are pouring in and I’m not going to let that happen.”


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