Throughout Donald Trump’s campaign he has maintained that he is going to build a wall along the southern border to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking, and that Mexico was going to pay for it. He threatened to fund it by blocking remittances sent home by Mexicans living in the United States.
Trump landed in Mexico Wednesday afternoon for an unprecedented meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto that took place just hours before his immigration speech in Phoenix.
According to the Chicago Tribune, within hours of Trump’s visit, a dispute arose over the most contentious part of Trump’s plan to secure the U.S. southern border and his insistence that Mexico must pay to build that wall.
When answering questions from adjacent lecterns before a Mexican flag after his meeting at the official residence of the country’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, Trump said Wednesday the two men did not discuss who would pay for a cost of construction pegged in the billions.
Pena Nieto later tweeted, “At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”
According to Reuters, on Friday, Armando Rios Piter, an opposition senator for the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), will next week present the initiative he hopes will protect Mexicans, and highlight the risks of targeting them economically.
The plan offers a taste of the kind of tit-for-tat measures that could gain traction between the two heavily-integrated economies if Trump wins the presidency at the Nov. 8 election.
In a preliminary summary of the proposal, which also foresees giving the Senate the power to disavow international treaties when the interests of Mexico or its companies are threatened by other signatories, it states:
“In cases where the property/assets of (our) fellow citizens or companies are affected by a foreign government, as Donald Trump has threatened, the Mexican government should proportionally expropriate assets and properties of foreigners from that country on our territory.”
Total remittances to Mexico from abroad – most of which come from the United States – were worth nearly $25 billion last year, according to the central bank. Bilateral trade between the two nations is worth about half a trillion dollars a year.
Trump has also threatened to tear up a trade deal with Mexico if it is not recast in the United States’ favor. He met President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City this week, sparking fierce criticism in Mexico of the government for hosting him.
Afterwards, Trump repeated his pledge to make Mexico foot the bill for the wall. Mexico says it will not pay.
It is yet to be established how such expropriations could work, nor is it clear what chance the bill could have of passing. The PRD and other leftist parties hold less than a quarter of the 128 seats in Mexico’s Senate.
Rios Piter said his aim was to counter threats by Trump to target Mexicans in the United States and to stress that the economic welfare of both nations is at stake.
“At a time like this, it’s vital for us to understand why this relationship benefits both. We’re neighbors, we’re friends, we’re partners,” he said. “He’s putting (that) at risk.”
The initiative also seeks to protect Mexico against unilateral changes to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has threatened to ditch.