President Trump spoke Tuesday with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto ahead of an expected meeting between the neighbor leaders in the coming weeks.
The White House said Trump spoke with Peña Nieto “to offer condolences to the families of the victims of the helicopter accident in Oaxaca.” Thirteen people were killed and 15 were injured when a military helicopter that was assessing damage from a magnitude 7.2 earthquake crashed late last week.
“President Peña Nieto returned the sentiment and expressed Mexico’s solidarity with the United States following the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida,” the administration added. “President Trump underscored his commitment to expanding cooperation between the United States and Mexico on security, trade, and immigration.”
Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray was in Washington last week to meet with senior officials at the White House and various government agencies. The purpose of the meetings was “to continue discussing key aspects of the bilateral relationship such as competitiveness, immigration and security,” Videgaray’s office said.
Mexico said a summit was agreed to that would include issues such as trade, energy and migration; the White House has not commented on a meeting date.
The meeting may fall near the March 5 deadline that Trump set for Congress to pass a legislative solution to save Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiaries from deportation; the White House has insisted on attaching border wall funding to a DACA bill. It also comes as the U.S., Mexico and Canada have engaged in six sluggish rounds of North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said after the last round NAFTA talks ended Jan. 29 that “some progress was made,” though he focused on points regarding Canada that he saw as unfair or roadblocks.
“We owe it to our citizens, who are operating in a state of uncertainty, to move much faster. Of course, negotiating as a group of three is more difficult than bilateral talks,” Lighthizer added. “Often, issues become more complicated and contentious when there are three parties.”
Mexico has a one-term, six-year presidency, and elections are coming up in July. Peña Nieto canceled a planned meeting with Trump in January 2017 after Trump tweeted, “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”
“Mexico does not believe in walls. I’ve said time again; Mexico will not pay for any wall,” the Mexican president said in a video posted on Twitter at the time.
In August, the Washington Post published a leaked transcript of a Jan. 27, 2017, call between Trump and Peña Nieto in which the Mexican leader said “the best virtual wall that I think we can build between our two countries is to make sure that both countries have economic development.”
Trump reportedly told his Mexican counterpart that “the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to.”
“You cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I am just going to say that we are working it out,” Trump said. “Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important talk about.”