US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued a stern ultimatum to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, saying it was "better to cancel" his upcoming visit to Washington if he was unwilling to foot the bill for a border wall.
"The US has a $60bn dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers of jobs and companies lost," Trump said on Twitter.
"If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting."
Pena Nieto condemned Trump's move to build a border wall , and insisted that his country has no intention of paying for it.
"I regret and condemn the decision of the United States to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us," President Pena Nieto said in a brief televised message on Wednesday.
"Mexico does not believe in walls. I have said it time and again: Mexico will not pay for any wall," he said, referring to Trump's vow to make his southern neighbour pay for the barrier.
Trump's plan has also been roundly condemned by other Latin American leaders .
READ MORE: Latino resistance under Trump
"Mexico gives and demands respect as the completely sovereign nation that we are," Pena Nieto, who is due to meet Trump at the White House next week, said.
Without mentioning the trip, Pena Nieto said that he would wait for a report from a high-level Mexican delegation holding meetings in the US capital this week and consult governors and MPs before deciding on "the next steps to take".
Pena Nieto said he had ordered Mexico's 50 consulates in the US to act as legal counsel for the rights of Mexican migrants.
"Our communities are not alone. The government of Mexico will offer legal counsel that will guarantee the protection they need," he said.
Al Jazeera's John Holman, reporting from the Mexican side of the US border, said Pena Nieto was trying to be cautious in responding to Trump's latest policy proposal.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump signed directives to order the building of the wall, and crack down on US cities that shield undocumented immigrants.
"A nation without borders is not a nation. Starting today, the US gets back control of its borders," he said.
'Rapists and drug dealers'
The order, signed on Wednesday, will enable the building of "a large physical barrier on the southern border", White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.
"Building this barrier is more than just a campaign promise, it's a common-sense first step to really securing our porous border," Spicer added.
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Trump said construction of the wall would start within months, with planning starting immediately, and that Mexico would pay back to the US "100 percent" of the costs.
"We'll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico," Trump said, repeating a campaign promise.
During the campaign, Trump referred to Mexican migrants as "rapists and drug dealers". He also visited Mexico, and later declared that Mexico will be paying for the construction of the wall.
Reuters news agency reported that Trump was expected to take steps in the coming days to limit legal immigration, including executive orders restricting refugees and blocking the issuing of visas to people from several Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and North African countries including Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen.
A second executive order, signed during an appearance at the Department of Homeland Security, was aimed at stripping federal grant money from "sanctuary" states and cities, often governed by Democrats, that harbour undocumented immigrants.
Trump, though, said "illegal immigrants brought to US as children shouldn't be very worried".
"I do have a big heart," he said.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies