Sitting directly beside Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto ahead of their bilateral meeting at the G-20 summit on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters he still “absolutely” wants Mexico to pay for a multi-billion dollar border wall along the countries’ shared border.
The leaders addressed a group of journalists together in Hamburg, Germany, during a press conference that morning. Trump reportedly referred to Peña Nieto as his “friend” and said the pair was making “very good progress” on discussions of transnational issues like the NAFTA negotiations.
As members of the media were being ushered out of the room, Darlene Superville of The Associated Press asked: “Mr. Trump, do you still want Mexico to pay for the wall?”
“Absolutely,” he replied, according to pool reports.
Erecting a Mexican-funded wall along the U.S. southern border to curb illegal immigration has been a priority and faltering promise for the current administration. Trump has advocated for the wall since his presidential campaign kicked off in 2015, when has infamously said that when Mexico “sends its people ... They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Trump signed an executive order to build the internationally condemned wall shortly after his inauguration in January. His continued claims that Mexico will cover the full costs of construction have wavered over time, and it still remains unclear exactly how it will be funded.
Mexican officials have repeatedly refused to pay for a wall they have no interest in building. Even a number of Trump’s fellow Republicans have opposed the construction plans.
The White House threatened to impose a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to help fund the structure in January, and Trump recently suggested putting solar panels on the wall would mean that the wall “pays for itself,” and that “Mexico will have to pay much less money, and that’s good.”
Friday marked the presidents’ first official meeting since Trump took office. They had planned to meet in January, but canceled the arrangements as tensions over the wall boiled over. Per usual, Trump took to social media to vent his frustrations at the time, tweeting: “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”
Peña Nieto had reiterated his view that his country has “some differences with the new government of the United States, like the topic of the wall, that Mexico of course will not pay” ahead of the canceled meeting.
After Friday’s talks, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray reportedly told the country’s “In the Morning” radio program that Trump didn’t even mention the border wall while meeting with Peña Nieto. He also said that Peña Nieto “did not hear” Trump’s remark that Mexico should still “absolutely” pay for the wall.