Mexican FM rules out payment for wall, calls for protection of remittances

"You have to know how to say 'no'. Even between friends, partners and allies, like Mexico and the United States are" said Luis Videgaray

Photo: Reuters / Files
English 31/01/2017 11:57 Reuters Actualizada 11:57

Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told media in Mexico City on Monday (January 30) that the country's refusal to pay for President Donald Trump's was non-negotiable, and called for the remittances of nationals working in the United States to be protected.

Trump wants a wall on the U.S. southern border to keep out illegal immigrants and says Mexico will pay for it. Mexico has flatly refused, making the issue a point of national pride.

President Enrique Peña Nieto and Trump spoke by telephone to calm tensions on Friday (January 27), and Videgaray said Mexico City's position on the issue has been made clear.

"You have to know how to say 'no'. Even between friends, partners and allies, like Mexico and the United States are. Last week was a moment just like that, when the President of the Republic (Enrique Peña Nieto) very clearly expressed his opposition, not just in regards to the meeting but also that this meeting was conditioned on an issue that was unacceptable, not just for the government but for all Mexicans," said Videgaray.

The Foreign Minister also reported that both administrations have kept in close contact on the issue, but have not set a new date for a new Peña Nieto-Trump summit.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on Sunday (January 29) that payment for the wall was still under discussion, mentioning the possibility of a border tax and other fiscal measures.

U.S. officials have not ruled out taxing remittances sent from Mexican workers in the United States to support family back home.

But Videgaray spoke out firmly against such a plan.

"An additional element that is important is the protection of remittances to Mexico. This is not just an economic issue, but is one that has a deep social impact. There is a significant number of Mexican families with limited resources in rural as well as urban areas, who depend on the solidarity of family members in the United States for their survival," he added.

Another measure touted by the Trump administration was a 20% tax on Mexican imports arriving to the United States. Such an approach would be contrary to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has threatened to ditch.

At the news conference, Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said history has shown that greater trade protection is no solution.

"Imposing tariffs and quotas to restrict commerce is part of what the world saw in the 1970s which showed that it is not a solution for development, growth and competitiveness. Therefore, negotiations have begun, but negotiations under clear elements which can benefit all three (NAFTA) countries (Mexico, the United States and Canada). And with a third pillar which is, in the end it has to be win, win, win," he declared.

Mexico has welcomed more flexible approaches from the White House to seek payment for a border wall.

On the weekend, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also touted an idea to make drug cartels pay for the border wall.